Grindr, the popular gay social networking app, appears to have disabled the function allowing users to show their distance from one another, presumably because of a glitch which was discovered that many felt could put some users in danger. An anonymous “samaritan” in Europe messaged thousands of users in countries where homosexuals are persecuted or even treated as criminals. This anonymous person warned that the glitch was making it possible for them to be located and identified. Despite claiming that they did not see the supposed problem as a security issue, the company did respond to the claim. They took the distance feature down on the evening of September 1, only to re-enable it on the morning of September 2.
This “samaritan” posted shortly after the feature was re-enabled that no fix had been made to the location glitch on America Blog, stating that they had still been able to identify the locations of users in Brunei and Iran, both countries with strong anti-gay governments. A recent crackdown in Iran using the gay networking app saw around 200 gay men rounded up and arrested for their homosexual activities. Given that fact, and the claims that this anonymous informer is making, users in countries across the world are having serious concerns about using the app.
In Egypt, a similar series of arrests were made as a result of police using supposed spies on dating apps like Grindr to locate gay men and women. This is becoming a commonplace practice for several anti-gay governments, and the fear is that if the capability of triangulating the exact location of users does really exist as a result of the reported Grindr security glitch, the level of danger for some users in those countries could be significant. According to this anonymous user, Grindr has begun taking steps to block the IP addresses of anyone attempting to use the app to find the exact location of users, but thus far it has been a relatively easy feat to get around those attempts accorting to his report.
This is not the first time that the app has faced problems stemming from alleged flaws in their process. One Grindr user, 52-year-old William Saporano Jr., filed a lawsuit claiming that it was the fault of the apps failed security measures which caused him to have a sexual encounter with a 13 year old boy. The policy for the site clearly states that users might be lying about their ages, and that they do not assume responsibility for any issues arising from this. In addition to that, it was determined that Saporano was not even a member of the app, and asked for the case to be dismissed. Claims like this were what prompted a 2011 court decision stating that social networking apps like Grindr could not possibly be expected to actually verify the ages of members, and Grindr cited this decision in their defense of this suit, as well.
In the case of the current claims of the alleged glitch, Grindr has not acknowledged that there is a problem. They have stated that they do not feel that the reported loophole represents a security issue. In light of the current state of affairs in many of the countries which the anonymous user claims to have located users in, a large number of Grindr users are wary of the reported glitch and are thinking twice about using the app for fear of the potential dangers involved.
By Aiden Wolfe