Grindr Makes Big Change After App Is Used To Track, Arrest Gay Men

Sep 08, 2014 at 4:33 PM ET

The makers of gay dating app Grindr announced on Friday that a setting allowing users to show the distance between one another had been disabled in several countries with anti-gay legislation. This news comes on the heels of evidence that Egyptian authorities were using it to locate and arrest homosexuals.

The proximity feature of the app allows users to detect other users’ location to within approximately 100 feet. As demonstrated by a reporter from America Blog, even those who don’t have a profile on the app—such as law enforcement agencies—can use the feature to home in on homosexuals, potentially to arrest them.

Grindr previously said it didn’t consider the location detection a security breach. On Friday, however, the company changed its tone. “In response to recent security allegations surrounding location data, Grindr is taking proactive measures to keep users safe in territories with a history of violence against the gay community,” it said. “This change means that any user within these countries will not show distance on their profile (e.g. 1 mile away). Your location will not be able to be determined via trilateration or any other method, keeping your position private and secure.”

In Egypt, where police arrest people for simply participating in parties or gatherings that might be in any way related to gay culture, the feature was a particular threat. For context, seven men were arrested on Sunday for a their connection to viral video showing a gay wedding—one that was most likely a joke. Even though the seven men all passed an official, government-administered homosexuality test, including an anal probe, they could still face jail time.

Given that atmosphere, it’s not surprising that Grindr users are afraid. “I would advise anybody using these applications to be extremely careful,” says a spokesperson for the “Gay Egypt” Facebook community. “Remember we are gay and we are in Egypt.”

A similar app in Sochi was hacked in the run-up to the Winter Olympics earlier this year, with users receiving a message that they may be targeted for arrest over “gay propaganda” if caught using the app.