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China Pressured Into Selling Gay Dating App Grindr Over National Security Fears

U.S. national-security officials have ordered a Chinese company to sell gay dating app Grindr, citing the risk that the personal data it collects could be compromised.

Grindr, which describes itself as the world’s largest social networking app for gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, had 27 million users as of 2017.

Chinese company Beijing Kunlun acquired a majority stake in Grindr in 2016 for U.S. $93 million. It bought out the remainder of the company in 2018.

Grindr’s founder and chief executive officer, Joel Simkhai, stepped down in 2018 after the remaining stake was bought by Kunlun.

The app is popular in China's gay community even though the Chinese government doesn't acknowledge same-sex relationships, and forbids explicit internet content.

READ MORE: Man Who Blackmailed Grindr User Narrowly Avoids Jail

The company collects personal information submitted by its users, including a person’s location, messages, and in some cases HIV status, according to its privacy policy.

According to Reuters sources, American officials fear Beijing could exploit personal data collected by Grindr to blackmail individuals with security clearances.

IMAGE: Getty Images

U.S. officials have now ordered Kunlun to sell Grindr over the potential national security threat, with the company reportedly looking to comply.

The move by U.S. officials signals that a range of social-media companies and apps will now be off limits to Chinese buyers, alongside deals involving sensitive technology such as chips and weapons.

READ MORE: US Justice Department Charges Chinese Tech Giant Huawei With Fraud

The U.S.’s already fraught relationship with China has recently intensified following telecommunications equipment makers Huawei and ZTE being barred from government contracts.

Earlier this month, Huawei announced it was suing the U.S. government over restrictions on its products. Beijing is accusing Washington of trying to hold back China's rise as a technology power.

Kunlun representatives did not respond to requests for comment. Grindr declined to comment.

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, said it does not comment publicly on individual cases.

With Reuters 

Contact the author: alattouf@networkten.com.au