U.S. intelligence sources worry the Chinese government is gathering personal information about Americans from their Grindr profiles, the Washington Post reports.
Earlier this month, Hong Kong-based Beijing Kunlun Tech completed its acquisition of the popular hookup app. (Grindr founder Joel Simkhai stepped down from the board, too.) The handover prompted talks about its 3.3 million users worldwide and the security of their personal data.
Experts claim China routinely sweeps and stores “massive amounts of data” from both its own citizens and foreigner users. “What you can see from Chinese intelligence practices is a clear effort to collect a lot of personal information on a lot of different people, and to build a database of names that’s potentially useful either for influence or for intelligence,” former U.S. intelligence officer Peter Mattis told the Post.
Under Chinese law, the government can use a “public security” clause to demand private information from Chinese-owned companies. The definition of “public security” is flexible, and the government can use it as it wills.
The fear is that officials will ask Kunlun to provide personal data from the app and that the company will have no choice but to comply.
“What we need is more clarity on the implications of these sorts of purchases and what it means for non-Chinese citizens,” says Shanthi Kalathil, director of the International Forum for Democratic Studies at the National Endowment for Democracy.
Meanwhile, Grindr has promised the app’s new ownership will not affect its standing as an American company, governed and protected by U.S. laws. Users’ privacy is a “top priority,” insists VP of marketing Peter Sloterdyk.