Listen this article
The dating application for the LGBTQ community is in trouble in the United States, where they accuse it of being a threat to national security
The main dating application for the LGBTQ community, Grindr, which is available in 192 countries and had more than 27 million users in 2017, walks the tightrope after being accused of representing a threat to national security in the United States.
Grindr belongs to the Chinese technology company Beijing Kunlun Tech, which acquired the majority shareholding in 2016 for $ 93 million according to CNN Money, and in 2018 acquired the remaining 32% for $ 152 million. Kunlun Tech specializes in the development of games and mobile platforms, in addition to various web services. It is also the distributor in China of the popular mobile game Clash of Clans and the role-playing games Eden Eternal and Glory Destiny Online.
Leer en español: ¡Los dueños de la App Grindr están en problemas!
Now your property of Grindr is at stake. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) informed Kunlun Tech that it must sell Grindr since its ownership of this company represents a risk to national security. This is despite the fact that Grindr is based in West Hollywood, California.
Kunlun Tech, which planned to open Grindr in the stock market in the near future, must now look for a buyer for one of the largest dating apps in the world, and the largest one for the LGBTQ public.
What is the concern of the United States?
The CFIUS has not disclosed the reasons why it considers the ownership of Grindr by Kunlun Tech to be a threat to national security, but neither is it obliged to do so.
Previously the CFIUS has vetoed the purchase of companies like MoneyGram and AppLovin by Chinese conglomerates, and in these occasions has not revealed the reasons. Beyond declaring that they do it in the name of national security, they do not go into detail to avoid revealing classified information.
It can be speculated, however, that the pressure on Kunlun Tech to sell comes as a consequence of its handling of the data it collects from its users. In addition to data such as name, age, gender and location, Grindr collects even more sensitive data from its users, such as whether they are HIV positive or not, depending on whether they want to provide it.
Also read: A new chapter in the US war against Huawei
According to an anonymous source who responded to NBC News, Grindr "never revealed any information about its users (regardless of their nationality) to the Chinese government" and added that "they [do not] intend to do so either".
Another anonymous source within Grindr told NBC News that since Kunlun Tech acquired the company, Grindr's current president, Scott Chen, has progressively restricted employee access to information and has begun to conduct most of the communication with Kunlun in Mandarin and through the Chinese WeChat messaging application. The source assures that this has made it difficult to monitor the use of the data and if these are being used according to the terms and conditions that are presented to the users.
Later, according to the same sources, Chen would have informed three of his employees that they would now work with researchers in the area of HIV linked to the Chinese state.
"They are attracted to our brand, our reach, and our data (...) we have to be extremely careful with their request to access our data", Chen said in an email to his employees, quoted in the NBC News report. "We cannot let people say that this is about 'sharing user data with the Chinese government'", he added.
The concern extends to the Senate
Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal, both Democrats, expressed concern regarding the handling of Grindr's data in a statement made last week.
"We have already communicated our concern with Grindr's privacy policies because this application serves particularly vulnerable groups and collects highly sensitive information, including HIV diagnoses and sexual orientation (...) In the wrong hands, this information can be used to threaten the safety and well-being of LGBTQ users around the world, "they wrote.
It is expected that Grindr will be auctioned by Kunlun Tech to the highest bidder in the coming weeks.
LatinAmerican Post | Pedro Bernal
Translated from "¡Los dueños de la App Grindr están en problemas!"