Norway slams $7.16M fine on dating app over privacy breach

The Norwegian Data Protection Authority, the country’s top data privacy watchdog, has imposed a $7.16 million fine on the gay dating app, Grindr. The dating app ran afoul of strict European Union privacy rules by sending sensitive personal data to hundreds of potential advertising partners without users’ consent.

The Authority said it imposed its highest fine to date because the California-based company failed to comply with the EU’s data protection regulations. Though Norway is not a member of the 27-nation bloc, it however closely mirrors EU rules.

Giving the grounds for the fine, the data privacy watchdog said users: “were forced to accept the privacy policy in its entirety to use the app” and were not asked specifically if they wanted to allow their data to be shared with third parties “for behavioral advertisement.”

“Furthermore, the information about the sharing of personal data was not properly communicated to users,” contrary to EU requirements for ‘valid consent,’ the agency said.

Responding to the development, Grindr said the agency’s findings related to consent policies from years ago, not its current practices, and that it is considering its next steps, including an appeal.

“The Norwegian Data Protection Authority relies on a series of flawed findings, introduces many untested legal perspectives, and the proposed fine is therefore still entirely out of proportion with those flawed findings,” Shane Wiley, Grindr’s chief privacy officer said.

In 2020, Norway’s Consumer Council filed a complaint against Grindr for disclosing information about its users, including GPS locations, IP addresses, ages, gender and their use of the app, to several third parties for marketing purposes that allowed users to be identified and third parties to potentially share personal information further.

The Consumer Council’s director of digital policy, Finn Myrstad, said the decision by the Data Protection Authority: “sends a strong signal to all companies involved in commercial surveillance.”

In the same vein, Ala Krinickyte of the European Center for Digital Rights said: “it is astonishing that the DPA has to convince Grindr that its users are LGBT+ and that this fact is not a commodity to be bartered.”

Grindr said in a statement that: “protecting users’ interests and ensuring that we put them in control of their personal data has always been our top priorities.”

“We have also been proactive in adopting industry-leading privacy positions and tools like detailed consent flows, granular user privacy controls, and ‘just-in-time’ app notifications.”


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