Grindr is one of the most popular gay dating apps, with millions of users around the world. However, the app has vulnerabilities that can put users’ privacy and personal safety at risk. Here are the major privacy risks of using Grindr, and the steps you can take to protect yourself.
What Are The Privacy Risks Of Grindr?
Other Users Can Uncover Your Location
Like other popular dating apps such as Tinder, Grindr has security vulnerabilities that can reveal your location. The app uses GPS and Wi-Fi to match Grindr users in a geographic area and reveals the distance between them. In 2014, cybersecurity researchers discovered that Grindr users could easily exploit this information to uncover the locations of other users. Grindr addressed this issue by allowing users to disable location sharing. However, a follow-up study demonstrated that the cybersecurity researchers could still find Grindr users’ locations.
This study was conducted by Trever Faden, who created a website where users could identify who blocked them on Grindr. To uncover this information, the users only needed to enter their Grindr username and password. Following Faden’s study, Grindr restricted access to data of users who had blocked other users. In addition, Grindr told users not to use their Grindr logins for other websites.
In his study, Faden also discovered that he could find the location of users who had disabled location sharing. This is because the user’s location data is still sent to Grindr’s server, where it can be uncovered. Determining a user’s exact location can have severe consequences, especially in countries where homosexuality is outlawed.
Grindr has a presence in most countries, and homosexuality is illegal in 70 nations, with 13 of these nations utilizing the death penalty for homosexual activity. Egypt used this vulnerability to identify and track its gay and lesbian citizens, in some cases arresting them. Similarly, in Iran, the government identified Grindr users and arrested 200 of them. Though Grindr attempted to address this problem by hiding the app’s distance flag, these changes could be easily circumvented. So far, Grindr has not fixed this problem.
Your Health Information May Be Revealed
Another privacy risk of using Grindr is the company shares confidential data, including sensitive health information. In April 2018, Grindr came under fire when it was revealed that the company was sharing users’ HIV status with other companies, along with location data and email addresses.
Grindr representatives initially defended the practice. They claimed that data-sharing was widespread and that users consent to data-sharing when they sign up for the app.
However, in practice, many Grindr users were unaware that their health information was shared. If Grindr users choose to reveal their HIV status, it’s visible to other Grindr users who view their profile. But many users did not suspect that the app shared their sensitive health information outside of Grindr.
This severe breach of privacy caused a public outcry, and Grindr eventually issued a statement that it would no longer share this information with third parties. Still, Grindr user should seriously consider whether to include their health information on their profile.
How Can You Protect Your Privacy On Grindr?
As with other dating apps, limit the amount of identifying information you include on your profile. Avoid using your full name, phone number, email address, and other sensitive information. It’s also best to upload a profile photo that doesn’t appear anywhere else online. This is because other users can do a reverse image search of your photo. They can then use this information to find your social media profiles and uncover your identity. In addition, if you decide to take the conversation off the app, a safer practice is to use Google Voice or another service that lets you give people a second number.
Given Grindr’s history of sharing confidential health information such as HIV status with third parties, you might want to avoid filling out this information on your profile. Although Grindr has said it will no longer share this information, it’s safer not to share your HIV status on Grindr.
Disable The Distance Function
Grindr and other dating apps use your phone’s location to match you up with people in your area. Unfortunately, there is also the risk that other users will uncover your location. If another Grindr user knows how far you are from them, they can calculate your exact location using a process called trilateration. For this reason, it’s important to hide your distance information. While enabling this function doesn’t guarantee that another user won’t be able to locate you, it’s still safer than not enabling it at all.
You can hide your distance on Grindr by taking the following actions:
- Open the Grindr app on your device
- Tap on Menu, then Settings, and then Edit Profile
- Scroll down to Account Settings and locate Show Distance
- Turn off Show Distance
Be aware, however, that even when you hide the distance function, your profile will still be categorized with other Grindr users in your area. This means your location will still be vulnerable if other local Grindr users disclose their distance information.
Use A Fake-Location App
Unfortunately, many of Grindr’s security vulnerabilities can only be addressed by Grindr itself. As things now stand, Grindr has not yet fixed the vulnerabilities that allow Grindr users and governments to uncover other users’ locations. While you can hide your distance from other users, this precaution is no guarantee that your location will remain private.
Until these vulnerabilities are resolved, your best option is to install a fake-location app and spoof your location. These apps can fool other apps into thinking you are somewhere else, and many work on dating apps. Popular options include Fake GPS GO Location Spoofer for Android and Fake GPS Location for iOS devices.
Fake GPS GO is quite easy to install on Android 6.0 and newer models using the following steps:
- Download the app
- Open the app and tap Enable Mock Locations on the first screen.
- Go to the Developer Options screen, tap Mock Location app, and select FakeGPS Free
- On FakeGPS Free, find the location you want to spoof
- Use the play button on the bottom right-hand corner of your screen to enable the fake GPS setting. Watch for a message reading “Fake Location Engaged”.
You can use the following steps to spoof your location on iOS 12 and older devices:
- Install a program called iTools on your computer
- Open the program and select Free Trial
- Go to the Toolbox tab
- Go to the Device Toolkits section and select Virtual Location
- Enter the fake location in the text box on the map and press Enter
- When a marker for the fake location appears on the map, click the Move Here button to set your iPhone to that location
Setting your phone’s GPS to a fake location is currently one of the more effective ways to protect your location on Grindr and other dating apps.
Grindr has the same security vulnerabilities as other dating apps, especially when it comes to keeping users’ locations private. Despite Grindr’s attempts to fix this vulnerability, it is possible for Grindr users and sometimes even governments to uncover users’ locations. Since Grindr is a gay dating app, this can lead to serious consequences in countries that outlaw homosexuality. Currently, limiting the information you share on your profile and using a fake-location app on your device are some of the best precautions you can take when using Grindr.