online dating

Today’s National Security Threat Is … Grindr

Photo: Grindr

When I think about the dangers of online dating, a few things immediately spring to mind: getting catfished. Getting murdered. Getting nothing but matches with incredibly strange and boring and self-centered people until you decide you’d rather spend your days alone surrounded by 16 houseplants. What I don’t think of, however, is U.S. national security — which is apparently being threatened by Grindr and its Chinese owner Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd. The company had been preparing for an IPO, but Reuters reports it will now be looking for an outright buyer instead.

“The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) has informed Kunlun that its ownership of West Hollywood, California-based Grindr constitutes a national security risk,” sources told Reuters. Kunlun purchased Grindr, “the world’s largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people,” in 2018. The app reported 3.8 million daily users that same year. Like all dating apps, users grant access to sensitive information, including location. But unlike heterosexually oriented apps, Grindr’s information is even more sensitive, considering the inclusion of details like HIV status and the dangers LGBTQ people face worldwide.

Previously, a developer was able to use the app’s API to allow users to view unread messages, email addresses, deleted photos, and even location data about other Grindr users who had blocked them. It’s this same information that likely concerns CFIUS (specifics regarding the investigation have not been released). “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. In the past two years, CFIUS has blocked two app-related sales — of MoneyGram International Inc. and mobile marketing firm AppLovin — to Chinese companies over securities concerns.

Earlier this year, Grindr shut down INTO, an online LGBTQ magazine it owned. Six weeks earlier, the site reported that Grindr’s president, Scott Chen, had posted homophobic statements on Facebook. “Some think marriage is between a man and a woman. I think so, too, but it’s a personal matter,” he wrote.

Today’s National Security Threat Is … Grindr