US Government is Forcing Chinese Company Who Purchased Grindr to Sell

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Grindr has come under scrutiny in the last several weeks after Chinese company Beijing Kunlun Tech purchased a majority stake in the popular dating app in 2018. The U.S. government has demanded the new owners give up control of the company.

According to The Washington Post, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a government body charged with overseeing security threats to U.S. companies, has declared that the Grindr purchase is a threat to U.S. national security because of the risk posed to the privacy of users of the app.

Kunlun has access to sensitive personal data of Grindr users, including their HIV history, which has huge privacy implications. Kunlun can also take advantage of the app’s geolocating function – which means that they could track Grindr users as they move from location to location. This is especially risky to U.S. security because Kunlun could monitor data from government security and military officials as well as government contractors who use the app, who could be blackmailed or compromised.

CFIUS determined that as long as Kunlun owned Grindr and had access to its data, it posed a huge security risk.

According to The Hill, Kunlun is now reportedly trying to sell the app after pressure from the CFIUS. Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said last week that they agreed with the CFIUS's decision to push for the sale.

“In the wrong hands, this information can be misused in ways that threaten the safety and well-being of LGBTQ users around the world,” the Senators said in a statement. “These concerns are heightened when there is a risk of adversarial foreign actors being privy to the data in question.”

According to NBC News, Grindr employees were also concerned about other potential security risks in the wake of the sale. Undisclosed sources forwarded internal company emails to NBC that were directives from new Grindr CTO Scott Chen. (Chen was named to CTO shortly after the purchase by Kunlun). These sources were concerned when he transferred certain internal communication to WeChat (leaving it vulnerable to hackers), and also communicated often in Chinese, so some employees weren’t able to keep tabs on what was happening.

NBC News also pointed out that “Chen proposed a partnership with a team of HIV researchers with connections to the Chinese government.”

Grindr so far has not commented on the developing story or the CFIUS investigation. However, it did say in an email that the company “never disclosed any user data (regardless of citizenship) to the Chinese government nor do we intend to,” according to NBC.

According to The Washington Post, CFIUS has been tracking other Chinese companies and investors who are acquiring U.S. companies, specifically to examine potential security breaches and privacy concerns. It is a growing problem that raises red flags.

To find out more about this service you can read our Grindr app review.