Contributed by: kellyseal Tuesday, June 11 2019 @ 10:00 am
Beijing Kunlun Tech owns 60% of Grindr, a popular dating app in the LGBTQ community. Last year the company was planning to take the app public but was stopped when the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) intervened. The U.S. government agency oversees purchases of businesses by foreign entities and expressed concern that the national security of the U.S. would be threatened by the acquisition of the dating app by a Chinese tech company, because of the sensitive user information it had access to.
In the case of Grindr, Beijing Kunlun had access to even more sensitive information than most dating apps. In addition to the photos and GPS locations of users, the company also had access to the HIV status of Grindr customers. Last year, it was revealed that Beijing Kunlun was sharing information with third parties, putting users at risk of potential threats, blackmail, and other ramifications. CFIUS was also concerned about government and military officials using Grindr who could be compromised.
There were also reports from Grindr employees who were not being included in communication that Beijing Kunlun executives had over WhatsApp, and that sometimes those communications were in Chinese, so they were unable to read and know what was happening.
This week, Beijing Kunlun announced that it had reached an agreement with CFIUS to sell the app by June 30, 2020. Until then, the firm says Grindr will not transmit any sensitive information to China, though CNN reports “it is not clear how that will be enforced.”
As the trade war between the U.S. and Chinese government heats up, there might be additional precautions that CFIUS takes to prevent Chinese-owned businesses from collecting personal data on American citizens. There is increasing scrutiny because the Chinese government has been notoriously secretive about their data collection practices and how they use information to their advantage, according to CNN.
"As government officials — including US military and intelligence services officers — may be Grindr users, the US government is right to be concerned about the possibility of a foreign government gaining access to the most intimate aspects of their lives," the UK-based Privacy International said in a statement. "However, it is equally concerning that Grindr users from any country and background are at the mercy of a government, be it the Chinese or the US government."