Contributed by: kellyseal Tuesday, August 20 2019 @ 08:40 am
Gay dating app Grindr is headed towards an IPO again, now that the U.S. national security panel CFIUS has dropped its opposition.
Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech purchased Grindr fully in 2018, but the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. found this problematic and forced Beijing Kunlun to sell the app by June 2020. According to a report from CNBC[*1] , a source familiar with the situation said the efforts to sell Grindr by the deadline were continuing, even as plans for the IPO were moving forward.
CFIUS has not officially stated its concerns about Beijing Kunlun’s ownership of Grindr, but there is increased scrutiny of Chinese companies that have access to sensitive and personal data of Americans. Grindr users are especially at risk, since personal information and photos are shared routinely over the app via profiles and messages.
Reuters also reported earlier this year that Beijing Kunlun had given engineers based in China access to personal information of millions of Americans, including private messages and HIV status. This was especially problematic, notably for members of the military and government intelligence officials who use the app as they could be compromised, threatening the security of the U.S.
There were also reports from Grindr employees that Beijing Kunlun executives were communicating secretly over WhatsApp, sometimes in Chinese, so the employees were unable to understand what was happening.
Kunlun responded to CFIUS by saying it would shut down Grindr’s operations in China and would not send sensitive user information in order to protect user data. The intervention from CFIUS alarmed Chinese companies according to the Los Angeles Times, who feared their investments in U.S. companies might be negatively impacted. The U.S. government has also expanded CFIUS’ powers to oversee Chinese investments in early-stage technologies in order to protect U.S. patents.
It’s unclear why the company would still move forward with an IPO if Beijing Kunlun still plans to sell Grindr. It also comes at a sensitive time for U.S.-China trade relations, with Trump announcing a new tariff for Chinese goods sold in the U.S.
The move raises concerns among privacy advocates. Last year, Democratic U.S. Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal sent a letter to Grindr asking how the app would protect users’ privacy under its Chinese owner.
Grindr is based in Los Angeles, is a hugely popular dating network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, with more than 27 million users globally.