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Various consumer and civil rights groups have called for the investigation of popular dating mobile apps Tinder, Grindr, and OkCupid for what they term as sharing of personal information with advertising and marketing companies.

Dating apps sharing personal information

The calls come following a report by the Norwegian Consumer Council that showed around ten apps that collect sensitive personal information. The report indicates that they collect sexual orientation, the exact location of the user, drug use, religious and political beliefs, among other information. The apps transmit the data to around 135 different third party companies.

For instance, the gay dating app Grindr sent user-tracking codes and the name to several companies. Equally, the app sent the location of users to different companies that may then transmit the data to other businesses according to the report. On the other hand, OKCupid transmitted the ethnicity of the user and some personal profile answers to a company that helps companies in personalizing marketing messages to users. Recently the OKCupid site posted a list of over 300 analytics and advertising partners that it shares user information with.

Data harvesting a violation of EU GDPR

According to the Norwegian agency, data harvesting is a violation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation that aims at protecting personal data. Equally, consumer groups in the US have been alarmed, and they have called for regulators to take action. Led by Public Citizen, a government watchdog group, they are calling for Congress to use the findings as a roadmap to enact new laws.

According to Burcu Kilic, who is a lawyer leading the digital rights program at Public Citizen, the apps and online services are acting as spies. Kilic said that they are collecting a lot of data that they share with third-party companies without user consent. As a result, their actions need regulation before it is too late.

This form of surveillance allows several businesses unknown to users to profile them and target them with adverts to influence their behavior. Besides the data being used in tailoring ads, it can be used nefariously to manipulate, exploit, and discriminate.