Norway to fine dating app Grindr $11.7M over privacy breach

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FILE – In this Wednesday, May 29, 2019 file photo, a woman checks the Grindr app on her mobile phone in Beirut, Lebanon. Norway is fining gay dating app Grindr $11.7 million under for failing to get consent from users before sharing their personal information with advertising companies, in breach of stringent European Union privacy rules. Norwegian’s data privacy watchdog said Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021 that it notified the company of its draft decision to issue a fine for 100 million Norwegian krone, equal to 10% of its annual global revenue. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, file)

LONDON (AP) — Gay dating app Grindr faces a fine of more than $10 million from Norwegian regulators for failing to get consent from users before sharing their personal information with advertising companies, in breach of stringent European Union privacy rules.

The Norwegian data privacy watchdog said Tuesday that it notified Grindr LLC of its draft decision to issue a fine for 100 million Norwegian krone ($11.7 million), equal to 10% of the U.S. company’s global revenue.

The Data Protection Authority took action following a complaint by the Norwegian Consumer Council alleging personal data was shared unlawfully for marketing purposes. The council had detailed in a report last year how Grindr and other dating apps leaked personal information to advertising technology companies for targeted ads in ways the council said violated the EU’s tough GDPR privacy rules.

Norway isn’t a member of the EU but closely mirrors the bloc’s rules and regulations.

“The Norwegian Data Protection Authority considers that this is a serious case,” said Director-General Bjorn Erik Thon. “Users were not able to exercise real and effective control over the sharing of their data.”

The company has until Feb. 15 to give feedback, which the watchdog will take into account for its final decision.

Grindr said it looked forward to holding a “productive dialogue” with Norwegian regulators about the allegations, which it said date back to 2018 and don’t reflect current privacy policy or practices.

The app’s privacy approach includes “detailed consent flows, transparency, and control” provided to all users, the company said, adding it has “retained valid legal consent” from all its European users “on multiple occasions.”

“We continually enhance our privacy practices in consideration of evolving privacy laws and regulations,” the company said in a statement.

The watchdog’s preliminary conclusion is that Grindr shared user data with a number of third parties without legal basis. The data included GPS location, user profile information as well as the fact that users are on Grindr, which could indicate their sexual orientation.

Sharing such information could put someone at risk of being targeted, the authority said in its notice to Grindr.

The fact that a person “is a Grindr user may lead to prejudice and discrimination even without revealing their specific sexual orientation,” it said.

The Data Protection Authority said the way Grindr asked users for permission to use their information went against GDPR’s requirements for “valid consent.” Users weren’t given the chance to opt out of sharing data with third parties and were forced to accept Grindr’s privacy policy in its entirety, it said, adding that users weren’t properly informed about the data sharing.

The watchdog is still investigating five “ad tech” companies that received data from Grindr, including Twitter’s mobile app advertising platform, MoPub, which has more than 160 partners.

The Norwegian Consumer Council welcomed the fine.

“We hope that this marks the starting point for many similar decisions against companies that engage in buying and selling personal data,” said the group’s director of digital policy, Finn Myrstad.

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Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen contributed to this report.

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For all of AP’s tech coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/technology

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Follow Kelvin Chan at https://www.twitter.com/chanman

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