Widely used dating apps Grindr, OkCupid and Tinder are sharing users’ personal information — including their locations and sexual preferences — with advertisers and marketers in an alleged violation of European privacy laws, according to a new report that examined some of the world’s most downloaded Android apps.
The popular matchmaking apps collected and processed large amounts of highly sensitive information pertaining to individuals’ sexuality, drug use, political views and more to help advertisers send consumers more targeted ads, the Norwegian Consumer Council said in a report entitled “Out of control: How consumers are exploited by the online advertising industry.”
The data these apps collected is used to help marketers customize ads, but can also be used more nefariously — to discriminate, manipulate and exploit, the report claims.
“These practices are out of control, rife with privacy violations and breaches of European law, and highly problematic from an ethical perspective,” the report reads.
The council commissioned security firm Mnemonic to analyze data traffic from 10 popular apps, none of which allowed users to “make an informed choice” about how their data would be used upon downloading the apps.
The apps assign users serial numbers — personal identifiers that feed data into internal profiles that include detailed information about individuals “personalities, predispositions and secret desires,” the report found.
Match Group, which owns OkCupid and Tinder, said in a statement to CBS News that both apps “use third party providers to assist with technical operations and providing our overall services, similar to all other apps and online platforms.”
OkCupid communicates with its users through software company Braze and says it complies with applicable laws.
Grindr, described as “the world’s largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people” uses MoPub, a Twitter subsidiary, to share users’ data, according to the report.
“We are currently investigating this issue to understand the sufficiency of Grindr’s consent mechanism. In the meantime, we have disabled Grindr’s MoPub account,” Twitter said in a statement to CBS News. Grindr could not be reached for comment.
The Norwegian council on Tuesday said it filed complaints against Grindr and five ad tech companies for violating European data protection regulations.
In 2018, Grindr said itits users’ HIV status with two companies before .