Sci-tech

Dating apps leak personal data, Norwegian group says

Dating apps leak personal data, Norwegian group says”

Grindr is sharing much more personal information with other companies than most of its users are aware of and, because it is a gay hook-up app, essentially broadcasting their sexual orientation as well, according to a new report.

The New York Times also highlighted potential problems with other dating apps, like OK Cupid and Tinder, sharing personal information with marketing partners.

The privacy policies of these apps usually make it clear that their data will be shared with third parties, but experts believe these policies do not share enough information with users before they choose to give meaningful consent.

For instance, a company called Braze received intimate details about users from OkCupid and Grindr, including information users submitted for matchmaking, such as details about sexuality, political views, and drug use.

The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), implemented in 2018, heavily restricts companies' ability to process and share personal information without users' consent, with hefty fines for firms that break the rules.

The apps tested include the dating apps Grindr, Happn, OkCupid, and Tinder; the period tracker apps Clue and MyDays; the makeup app ideal; the religious app Muslim: Qibla Finder; the children's app My Talking Tom 2; and the keyboard app Wave Keyboard.

The dating app Tinder is also accused of sharing user data with at least 45 companies owned by the Match Group, which operates a dating website of the same name.

And where the consumers do have control, such as from opting out of location data tracking by changing their device settings or by not giving apps access to location data, the study said MoPub's advertising partners like AppNexus could still infer a user's location based on their IP address. Its findings show how data can spread among companies, and they raise questions about how exactly the companies behind the apps are engaging with Europe's data protections and tackling California's new privacy law, which went into effect January 1.

The consumer group and Schrems' privacy organization have filed three complaints against Grindr and five ad-tech companies to the Norwegian Data Protection Authority for breaching European data protection regulations. In 2018, the dating app announced it would stop sharing users' HIV status with companies following a report in BuzzFeed exposing the practice, leading AIDS advocates to raise questions about health, safety and personal privacy.

But given the sensitivity of the information they have, dating apps in particular should take privacy and security extremely seriously, Goldman said.

A new report by the Norwegian Consumer Council details how Grindr, which markets itself as the "world's largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans and queer people", shares the Global Positioning System data, IP addresses, ages and genders of its users with a multitude of third-party companies to help them improve advert targeting. Director of digital policy Finn Myrstad said: 'These practices are out of control and in breach of European data protection legislation'.

Grindr, which is owned by Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. One of those partners is an ad tech company owned by AT&T, which may share data with more than 1,000 "third-party providers". There have been costly hacks of private companies that leak personal information leaving people susceptible to fraud. The report alleges that Grindr does not follow the proper consent procedures to share data with MoPub and its partners OpenX and AppNexus. Under the GDPR, the maximum fine for a violation is up to 4 percent of annual revenue.

In addition to the European complaints, a coalition of nine U.S. consumer groups urged the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the attorneys general of California, Texas and OR to open investigations.

"The report makes it clear that even if you have laws on the books that protect consumer privacy rights and preferences, that doesn't really matter unless you have a strong cop on the beat", McInnis says.



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