Grindr, the famous gay dating app, turned ten years old this Monday. From a geosocial networking and online dating application to a campaign-centered app which supports several advocacies, Grindr lifted connections within LGBTQ communities.
Through the use of a mobile device geolocation, found mostly in smartphones, the app allows users to locate others who are nearby, displaying a grid of profiles arranged from nearest to furthest away. Just one tap of the picture and you’ll have the chance to get a match, and if luck’s on you, that person might be your destined partner in life.
Dating back on March 25, 2009, Grindr was the first gay geosocial app launched in the iTunes App store and has since become the largest and most popular gay mobile community online. It is geared towards gay, bi, trans and queer people who do not only seek affection but also recognition and equality among others.
Now, a decade after the dating app first launched, it has revolutionized the gay and bisexual community. It has become an avenue for several activists who fought for equality and spread information about LGBT-related issues in different parts of the world.
Turning a decade old is a milestone for the app. Although based in the United States, Grindr quickly gained popularity worldwide at almost 192 countries through word of mouth and various media outlets. Now, as it plans to expand its reach to a wider audience, researchers take an in-depth look at how the dating app affects the lives of many love-seekers.
According to the research from Time Well Spent back in 2018, Grindr topped the list of apps which left users feeling unhappy. The study was conducted from 200,000 iPhone users which measures just how much do people enjoy using their favorite apps.
The primary objective of the study was to find out which application left users feeling happiest or unhappy. The result showed that health and wellness apps ranked first as the most favorite apps that resonate happiness and positive vibes. However, the data indicated that Grindr, which is becoming a phenomenon in the world of online dating, topped the list with 77 percent of its users claiming that they felt miserable after using the said app.
Despite its advantages, the app faced a lot of controversies even after its establishment, which became the basis of negative feedbacks gathered from its users. As the app celebrates its existence, it is also reasonable to check its impacts on people and how these controversies shaped users’ views and opinions towards the app.
Users claimed that the top reason for feeling miserable when using the app is the fact that their personal data is being compromised.
In the past years, Grindr has been bombarded with issues of pinpointing users’ location. In 2014, it was reported that the app’s relative distance measurements could allow people to locate individual users, thus, compromising its privacy. Grindr, in its true sense, uses the mobile device’s geolocation to specifically locate users’ location that enables the site to pair people and create matches.
In 2016, more than two million detections were performed to prove the claim. The issue heightened after a public protest was held by the LGBTQ community that the Egyptian police used Grindr to hunt and torture gay people. The app, being in the limelight for what seemed to be the worst controversy during that time, disabled distance display.
However, the ‘show distance’ feature of Grindr was re-established last 2018. The feature has again created a spur of dismay and disappointment from the LGBTQ community. According to Frederick Brian Jay, author of several gay hook-up technologies book, by exploiting a novel-attack model called ‘colluding-trilateration’ (a technique used in surveying and mapmaking), locating any targeted user becomes an easy task without employing any hacking methods. In Russia, Grindr becomes a source of violence, as well as, harassment for the gay community, as authorities were provided information to their location and whereabouts.
Today, the said app is being used by countries especially in United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Ukraine, Russia, and Egypt to track and arrest gay men; which is a significant violation to the individuals’ data privacy. The weird thing is, Grindr knew its security flaws but didn’t seem to care at all.
Some countries were only blocked after the management discovered about its tracking activities, but other nations were exercising the same inhumane act. Blocking the app on these countries only provides a band-aid solution to the bigger problem; it gives a temporary cure to the wound, but it will never solve the issue at hand.
Grindr has been contacted by various media outlets but refused to be interviewed on issues such as security and privacy concerns. The thing is, finding someone’s precise location is very alarming. Based on the user’s current location, Grindr tells the whereabouts of other users in the area with an exact level of precision. It is fair that the app’s executive team should be worried on its major security flaw because personal and privacy implications are terrifying; physical harm is natural when people have a map telling the location of gay men in real time.
What makes Grindr’s flaws intensely bad is its lack of action in the matter. Rather than addressing a crucial security flaw to lift the LGBTQ community from risk and possible harm, Grindr continues to rely mainly on band-aids and not on long-term solutions. As it celebrates its anniversary, we hope that the dating app will also acknowledge the importance of privacy and security measures.