In the wake of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, another social media company, Grindr, a gay dating app, has come under scrutiny for its sharing of sensitive personal information with third parties.  In particular, Norwegian research outfit SINTEF, after analyzing Grindr’s traffic, alleges that Grindr shares its users’ disclosed HIV status and last tested date , GPS location and other demographic profile information with third parties.

Grindr does warn its users in its Privacy Policy of its ability to share demographic information with advertising and analytics partners and even warns users specifically about sharing HIV status and last tested date information.  With regard to HIV status, the Privacy Policy specifically states:

You may also have the option to provide information concerning health characteristics, such as your HIV status or Last Tested Date.  Remember that if you include information in your profile, and make your profile public, that information will also become public.  As a result, you should carefully consider what information to include in your profile.

Despite the privacy policy language, Grindr’s head of security responded to the allegations yesterday by stating that it would cease sending users’ HIV status to third party companies.

This latest story about the intersection of privacy and social media highlights a few things app developers must keep in mind.  First, if you are collecting sensitive information and plan to disclose that information to third parties, consider whether the app design should build in an extra notification to the user.  Users are inundated with privacy policies and more likely than not, do not read them.  The importance of transparency becomes incredibly clear in this example, as Grindr is experiencing a public relations nightmare despite having language that at least vaguely covered its practices.  Second, app developers must be aware that information collection, even with the best intentions such as promoting safe sex, can come back and bite you.  Finally, once GDPR takes effect on May 25, 2018, the collection of personal information of those in the European Union, especially sensitive information such as sexual orientation and health information, will be subject to the most comprehensive and complex privacy rules.  We expect that GDPR will impact website and app development across the globe.