Dating apps Tinder, Grindr and OkCupid accused of leaking sensitive data to advertisers

James Titcomb
Tinder was among the apps investigated - AFP

Dating apps have been accused of sending sensitive personal information to advertisers in a potential breach of European data laws.

An investigation by the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) said that Android apps including Tinder, the gay dating app Grindr, and OkCupid sent information including location data, sexual preferences and answers about users’ personal lives to a series of advertising networks.

The data was sent to multiple advertising companies including Google, Facebook and Twitter, as well as handful of lesser-known firms.

The NCC, which is funded by the Norwegian government, said it had filed complaints against Grindr, Twitter and several other advertising firms to the company’s data protection agency, claiming their actions constitute a breach of the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). 

The law prohibits companies from collecting personal data such as people’s sexual preferences and ethnicity without their explicit consent. Grindr was singled out for criticism for sending precise location data and other information to a wide range of advertising networks, which are then used to direct adverts at internet users.

In turn, those networks may then share the data with hundreds more. “These practices are out of control and in breach of European data protection legislation, said Finn Myrstad of the NCC. “The extent of tracking makes it impossible for us to make informed choices about how our personal data is collected, shared and used.”

Twitter said it had suspended Grindr from MoPub, its network that places adverts on smartphone apps, and that it was investigating the matter. A violation of GDPR can result in a fine of up to €20m (£17m), or 4pc of a company’s annual revenues, whichever is greater.

The researchers said they examined 10 Android apps, which were found transmitting data to at least 135 third parties. Grindr said it had not examined the report but that it laid out its data practices in its privacy policy. The Match Group, the dating giant that owns OkCupid and Tinder, said it only shared data that was necessary to provide its services.