Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Tinder, Grindr, and other dating apps share your personal data with advertisers, study shows

The Norwegian Consumer Council published a report finding 10 apps, such as Tinder, Grindr, and others, to share personal and sensitive user data with third-party advertisers. The sensitive data include location, sexual orientation, religious and political views, drug use, etc. This data is shared with more than 135 different third-party companies.

The sharing of this collected personal data is illegal as it violates the European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). GDPR was designed to help protect the privacy of users online, and also require companies to be transparent about how certain practices work.

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After the Norwegian Consumer Council’s report, a group of civil rights and consumer groups (led by government watchdog group Public Citizen) are urging federal and state regulators to conduct their own investigation into these popular apps where very sensitive data is shared. They are also urging Congress to use the data from the new study to form strict data privacy laws similar to Europe.

Burcu Kilic, a lawyer who leads the digital rights program at Public Citizen, says, “These apps and online services spy on people, collect vast amounts of personal data and share it with third parties without people’s knowledge. Industry calls it “adtech.” We call it surveillance. We need to regulate it now before it’s too late.”

The study was conducted only by looking at Android phones, however, it does not mean that iOS devices are safe. All apps, regardless of platform, collect personal data. The Norwegian study found that Grindr uses Twitter-owned advertising software that collects IP information and allows advertisers to track users across devices. This integration of Twitter’s advertising platform is controlled by MoPub.

The report says, “Grindr only lists Twitter’s MoPub as an advertising partner, and encourages users to read the privacy policies of MoPub’s own partners to understand how data is used. MoPub lists more than 160 partners, which clearly makes it impossible for users to give an informed consent to how each of these partners may use personal data.”

Grindr has been controversial in the past after BuzzFeed revealed that the app shares the HIV status of users with advertising companies.

The information revealed in the study by the Norwegian researchers is very disturbing. The ACLU also sent a letter to the California Attorney General stating that the new data revealed may violate California’s new data privacy law, the California Consumer Protection Act. According to California’s new striuct law, consumers can opt-out of the sale of their personal data to advertisers. If companies don’t comply, consumers are permitted to sue the company.

After the report was published, Twitter took some steps by suspending Grindr’s access to MoPub. A Twitter spokesperson told NPR, “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.”

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Source: NPR

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