The international LGBTQ community is facing a major privacy threat, and the American government is stepping in.
The Chinese company Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd completed its acquisition of Grindr in 2018, and is now being forced to sell the app. The New York Times reports that US national security officials fear Beijing will now use data from the app to blackmail their staff and contract workers.
The main concern is that the Chinese government could threaten to disclose the sexual orientation of Grindr’s users, or perhaps even track the habits of security officials through the app, Reuters reports. Chinese LGBTQ members could also face blackmail or persecution if their confidential data were to land in the hands of authorities.
The US Committee on Foreign Investment, who deals with corporate deals that threaten national security, is now putting pressure on the company. This is the first time that American diplomats have been called over a social media app.
Why the United States has only decided to act now is unclear, however, it may be happening as Trump’s administration expands their definition of threats to national security. There is no evidence so far that any information from the app has been used by the Chinese government. According to Reuters, the app is seeking a new buyer.
Grindr calls itself “the largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people,” with millions of users worldwide. The app collects information about its user's messages, locations and HIV status, all of which potentially became accessible to the Chinese government through the purchase.
The Beijing-based Beijing Kunlun Tech Co Ltd bought Grindr in two parts, between 2016 and 2018. It paid $93 million for a 60 percent stake in 2016, then $152 million to acquire the remaining portion two years later.
Follow Edoardo on Instagram.