Grindr and OkCupid share very personal data with marketers

A woman checks the Grindr app on her mobile phone in Beirut Lebanon

A woman checks the Grindr app on her mobile phone in Beirut Lebanon

Grindr is sharing detailed personal data with thousands of advertising partners, allowing them to receive information about users' location, age, gender and sexual orientation, a Norwegian consumer group said. It said the majority of the apps did not present users with legally-compliant consent mechanisms.

The Norwegian Consumer Council said it found "serious privacy infringements" in its analysis of how shadowy online ad companies track and profile smartphone users. Twitter subsidiary MoPub was used as a mediator for the data sharing and passed personal data to third parties, the report said.

Tech companies have come under increased scrutiny over data privacy, fueled by 2018's Cambridge Analytica scandal in which tens of millions of Facebook profiles were harvested without their users' consent.

"These apps and online services spy on people, collect vast amounts of personal data and share it with third parties without people's knowledge".

The U.S. doesn't have federal regulation like the GDPR, although some states, notably California, have enacted their own laws.

Braze also said it didn't sell personal data, nor share that data between customers. "In the meantime, we have disabled Grindr's MoPub account", a Twitter spokesperson told NPR.

"Twitter's MoPub managed data transmissions that included personal data of a Grindr user", according to researchers from Mnemonic, a Norwegian security firm that studied the app and ad tech partners. "Grindr does not sell your personal data", the policy says. A final set is still in the works, and the law won't be enforced until July.

Grindr has faced criticism in the past for sharing users' HIV status with two mobile app service companies.

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Consumer Reports reached out to Grindr and Match Group, which owns OkCupid and Tinder.

Smaato said: "We are now reviewing the entirety of the report from the Norwegian Consumer Council and we have already begun an internal investigation". It also has written to Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission executive vice president, urging her to take action.

Lawyer Max Schrems, who founded the European Centre for Digital Rights and worked with the NCC on the complaints, said: "Every time you open an app like Grindr, advertisement networks get your Global Positioning System location, device identifiers and even the fact that you use a gay dating app".

The Match Group, the company that owns OKCupid and Tinder, said in a statement that privacy was at the core of its business, saying it only shares information to third parties that comply with applicable laws. Before the European Union law took effect, the French watchdog levied maximum fines of about $170,000. In the USA, there are similar laws to GDPR, like California's Consumer Privacy Protection Act, which regulates how companies collect and sell personal information.

The NCC lodged complaints against Grindr and five of its partners with Norway's data protection agency.

Consumer Reports is signing on to letters with nine other US -based advocacy groups calling on Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, and the California, Oregon, and Texas attorneys general to investigate, and asking that regulators take this new information into consideration as they work toward future privacy regulation. Grindr and OpenX did not respond to requests for comment, and Xandr declined to comment on behalf of AppNexus.

"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.

Syed, Drozdiak and Lanxon write for Bloomberg.

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