Unlike the splashy news headlines, when Ashley Madison was hacked and user data was released, rather quietly this week, Grindr made the news. I saw the article in the Wall Street Journal and similar articles were published by other news sources, but mostly by those who specialize in tech or data.
As someone who works as a therapist for problematic sexual behavior and other similar concerns, this news gave me pause.
For those who don’t know, Grindr is a dating app that is primarily for the LGBTQ+ community.
I know it would seem naive in today’s world to assume that there really is any type of internet privacy, but when it comes to our online dating or hook up habits, some privacy would be nice.
The technical details are this:
- Grindr has been selling user data since at least 2017.
- In 2020, they stopped providing location data to the advertisers. However, historically, this data was available.
- Users’ private information, such as names and phone numbers were not sold.
- Enough user information was sold that allowed for the inference of romantic hook ups between users just based on their location information.
A Catholic publication called the Pillar obtained information from Grindr that allowed it to track use by individuals. This led to the outing of a Bishop who subsequently resigned after it was found that he was a user of Grindr.
In a world where selling our data is the norm, everything you think about seems to pop up on your Facebook feed, why does it matter that Grindr sold users’ information? Besides the fact that who we choose to date or have sex with is not really anyone else’s business, there are several reasons that this is a problem:
1. There are still several countries in our world where being gay is a crime and can carry severe punishments.
Being outed as a Grindr user in one of these countries could have very serious and possibly life-threatening consequences.
2. There are still many places and situations here in the US where one’s sexuality being outed can be a threat to livelihood or lives.
The example of the Priest who felt he had to resign is a good example of this type of situation. Expressing his sexuality was, for lack of a better way to put it, against his job requirements.
3. Who we choose to have sex with is truly not anyone else’s business.
If someone is having sex with someone of the same gender or a trans person, that is their personal choice. Who we have sex with, no matter our orientation, is a personal decision and should not be data for public consumption. In a world where the LBGTQ+ community still faces hate and discrimination; this data should particularly be kept private so as to not be used as fuel to further hate.
If you are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, local to the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, and need support a great place to start is the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center.
Need support and not local to the Lehigh Valley? Check out the LGBT National Help Center.