Contributed by: kellyseal Wednesday, February 12 2020 @ 11:11 am
Dating app Grindr, currently owned by Chinese company Kunlun Tech, might be off the market soon thanks to a bid by the Milan-based app design company Bending Spoons.
According to Global Dating Insights[*1] , Bending Spoons has offered $260 million for the popular gay dating app, headquartered in West Hollywood. Reports are also linking investment firm H14 to the deal, which is headed up by Barbara, Eleonora, and Luigi Berlusconi, children of Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. The app’s original founder Joel Simkhai sold his company for $93 million to Kunlun Tech in 2016.
The potential sale to Bending Spoons has come about because of an order from the government agency Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS), which reviews the national security implications of foreign investments in U.S. companies. The agency found that Kunlun put the personal data of Grindr users at risk, and ultimately ordered Kunlun to sell its stake in the app by June 2020.
According to reports, Grindr has shared sensitive personal information such as location, sexual proclivities, and HIV status of its users with outside vendors. And there are concerns with Kunlun’s handling of personal data from American users of the app – including government and military officials – which could pose a national security risk should the Chinese government get hold of the information.
In some conservative countries such as Egypt, the government has used the app to track down and arrest gay men. Since then, Grindr has modified the app to disable location tracking in Egypt as well as Russia, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Liberia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, places with anti-gay laws, according to website Ars Technica. Even with these precautions in place, there were still concerns about governments gaining access to user data.
Grindr is still dealing with privacy issues, as recently as January. The Norwegian Consumer Council, a nonprofit research firm based in Oslo, revealed that many dating apps were mishandling personal data and sharing it with third parties, including Grindr. In fact, they found that Grindr, according to a report in The New York Times, “transmitted user-tracking codes and the app’s name to more than a dozen companies, essentially tagging individuals with their sexual orientation.”
“Grindr also sent a user’s location to multiple companies, which may then share that data with many other businesses, the report said. When The New York Times tested Grindr’s Android app, it shared precise latitude and longitude information with five companies.”
The Bending Spoons bid was initially reported by local Italian newspapers.