Public Citizen, along with American Civil Liberties Union of California, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), congressional lawmakers and the state attorneys general of California, Texas and Oregon to investigate several popular dating apps available in the Google Play Store.
A report released by the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) found that 10 well-known apps – Grindr, Tinder, OkCupid, Happn, Clue, MyDays, Perfect365, Qibla Finder, My Talking Tom 2 and Wave Keyboard – are sharing information they collect on users with third-party advertisers without users’ knowledge or consent. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation forbids the sharing of information with third parties without users’ knowledge or consent.
The report alleges that these apps (and likely a great many others) are allowing commercial third-parties to collect, use and share sensitive consumer data in a way that is hidden from the user and involves parties that the consumer neither knows about nor would be familiar with. Although consumers can limit some tracking on desktop computers through browser settings and extensions, the same cannot be said for smartphones and tablets. As consumers use their smartphones throughout the day, the devices record and track information about sensitive and intimate topics such as our health, behavior, religion, interests and sexuality.
Congress should use the findings of this report as a roadmap for a new law that ensures that such flagrant violations of privacy found in the EU are not acceptable in the U.S.
“Every day, millions of Americans share their most intimate personal details on these apps, upload personal photos, track their periods and reveal their sexual and religious identities. But these apps and online services spy on people, collect vast amounts of personal data and share it with third parties without people’s knowledge. Industry calls it adtech. We call it surveillance. We need to regulate it now, before it’s too late.” Burcu Kilic, Digital Rights Program Director