Is Grindr a National Security Threat?

Every time I ponder on all the potential risks of online dating, a handful of things instantly come to mind: becoming catfished. Becoming a murder victim. Receiving zero return on all the time and effort spent except for matches with extremely odd and dull and narcissistic individuals till you finally make your mind that you are better of devoting your days in solitary isolation alongside houseplants and pets. One thing that never crosses my mind though, is U.S. national security — which, as it turns out, is in danger from Grindr and its owner from China, Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd. The Chinese company has made preparations for securing an IPO, although Reuters declared that it is now considering a direct buyer as an alternative.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) informed Kunlun that its ownership Grindr constitutes a national security risk. Kunlun bought Grindr, “the world’s largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people,” in 2018. The app declared a whopping 3.8 million users each day during that year. Similar to any dating app, users allow access to various sensitive data, including address. In contrast to heterosexually based apps however, Grindr’s data is highly sensitive, taking into account the addition of particulars such as HIV status and the dangers that LGBTQ individuals tackle all over the world.

In the past, a developer managed to exploit Grindr’s API to permit users to see unread messages, email addresses, deleted photos and even location info regarding other Grindr users who opted to block them. It’s this very sensitive data that possibly worries CFIUS (details about the investigation have been kept secret). “The United States has been increasingly scrutinizing app developers over the safety of personal data they handle, especially if some of it involves U.S. military or intelligence personnel,” Reuters also reports. During the previous couple of years, CFIUS has barred two app-related sales — of MoneyGram International Inc. and mobile marketing firm AppLovin — to companies based in China due to security issues.

Previously this year, Grindr pulled out INTO, an online LGBTQ magazine that it created. 6 weeks beforehand, the site revealed that the president of Grindr, Scott Chen, published some homophobic remarks on Facebook. “Some think marriage is between a man and a woman. I think so, too, but it’s a personal matter,” he posted.