News (World)

Grindr faces massive fine for allegedly sharing “sensitive” user data

A phone with Grindr on
Photo: file

The queer men’s hookup app Grindr has been fined NOK 65 million ($6 million) by a Norwegian court after an investigation found that the company unlawfully shared sensitive user data with commercial companies they had partnered with.

The decision resulted from a 2020 complaint by the Norwegian Consumer Council (Forbrukerrådet), which found out the app has collected and shared sensitive user information with numerous commercial entities. 

The commercial entities were then allowed to further disseminate the data to potentially thousands of other third-party companies so they could then tailor-make advertisements for users, allegedly violating the country’s user privacy and data protection laws.

The director of the Norwegian Consumer Council, Inger Lise Blyverket, put out a statement celebrating the ruling, calling it “a very important victory in the fight to ensure consumers’ safety online.”

“The Grindr case shows how important it is to implement structural changes against an industry that lives on commercial surveillance of consumers,” said Blyverket.

“The commercial collection, sharing and use of personal data is out of control – and is finally being severely cracked down on,” Blyverket said. “We are very pleased that the district court so clearly confirms that Grindr’s sharing of sensitive personal data with third parties is illegal.”

“This sends a strong signal to all companies that engage in commercial surveillance. It is not free to collect and share personal data. We expect the digital marketing industry, which thrives on tracking and profiling consumers, to make fundamental changes to protect consumers’ rights,” she added.

The press release also cited the dangers of selling such information, saying that “In the worst case, the information can also be used to persecute minority groups.” It also noted that the information can be used to sway elections, or target people with addiction issues.

In a statement to LGBTQ Nation, Kelly Peterson Miranda, Chief Privacy Officer at Grindr, said, “We are disappointed that the Oslo District Court declined to reverse Norway’s regulatory ruling on historical privacy practices from 2018 to 2020. We are reviewing the decision and evaluating our options, including an appeal. While Grindr’s privacy practices were significantly enhanced more than four years ago, it is still fundamentally wrong to apply different legal rules to users of Grindr during that earlier period than to users of other dating and social networking apps.”

“Our commitment to user privacy, data protection, and transparency is unwavering, and ​​we employ rigorous screening protocols for any partners we work with and provide industry-leading transparency about the limited circumstances in which user information may be shared,” Miranda continued. “The company continues to expand its ecosystem to enable gay, bi, trans, queer, and curious people to connect and express themselves, and looks forward to upholding its commitment to protecting the privacy and data security of our users.”

Grindr has faced legal action for their mishandling of users’ data before. In April, almost 700 people sued the app for sharing their HIV status without giving consent. That lawsuit alleged that Grindr sharing extremely sensitive information without users permission to third party companies for commercial purposes. This information included users’ ethnicity, orientation, and HIV-status.

In 2017, Matthew Herrick, a gay waiter in New York City, sued Grindr because the app not respond appropriately after he complained over 50 times about an ex-boyfriend using the app to create fake profiles showing Herrick’s face, addresses, and phone number.

Grindr has an estimated 13 million monthly users. In 2021, Grindr launched “Grindr for Equality,” an initiative to provide users with education on “health, pandemics and outbreaks… racial issues, gender, [education], safety, holistic security and privacy, and more.”

Studies have also found that gay men are turning to Grindr chats for mental health support from their peers.

Don't forget to share:

Support vital LGBTQ+ journalism

Reader contributions help keep LGBTQ Nation free, so that queer people get the news they need, with stories that mainstream media often leaves out. Can you contribute today?

Cancel anytime · Proudly LGBTQ+ owned and operated