Dating apps like Tinder, OkCupid, and Grindr are all the rage these days. Despite making it easier to meet and meet new people, dating apps can also pose a privacy risk.
A recent Wall Street Journal investigation uncovered a major privacy flaw in Grindr, an app that caters to gay and queer people.
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App user location information has been on sale for years.
The data has been available for about five years, starting in 2017, and the article says earlier data may still be available. This is despite the company claiming to have stopped sending location data to ad networks.
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Citing people familiar with the matter, the newspaper said “the precise movements of millions of users of the gay dating app Grindr were collected from a digital advertising network and put up for sale.”
The data is believed to contain no personal information such as names and phone numbers. Location data, however, allows users to infer things like specific users and romantic encounters based on their proximity to a particular location. A user’s location data can also provide clues to their identity, such as their business and home addresses.
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In 2020, a Norwegian consumer group also reported that apps like Grindr and OkCupid shared personal information such as user location and sexuality with around 100 companies. These companies use the data for advertising and marketing purposes.
Even today, many are not open about their sexual orientation, and in some places being gay still carries risks, so this violation of privacy can be very dangerous. Experts have expressed concern about sharing such data, with some calling it risky in extreme circumstances.
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(With agency contributions)