The executives of Grindr, the world’s most popular gay dating app, have pulled it from Apple’s App Store in China over data regulation concerns, the latest in a series of foreign departures of the Chinese market following new rules.
Grindr’s services continue to operate in China, although in the past the Chinese government has taken steps to block services that violate its rules. In this case, the rules include a new personal information protection law that requires permission from the Chinese government for customer data to be transmitted outside the country’s borders.
Headquartered in West Hollywood, California, the app pioneered location-based dating. Grindr has sometimes gotten into hot water over its handling of personal data. In 2018, the social network, which caters to gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, faced widespread criticism for sharing users’ HIV status, sexual tastes and other intimate details with editors of external software.
China’s internet is one of the toughest operating environments for foreign companies in the world, with state-dictated censorship and disclosure rules that can compel companies to hand over consumer data.
Recent laws in China designed to protect consumer data have made it even more difficult for foreign companies, which must seek state permission to transmit data outside the country. Internet state policing has also increased in recent weeks as Beijing prepares for the Winter Olympics, which begin on Friday.
Grindr decided to pull the app last week due to difficulties complying with new regulations, said a company official who declined to be named. Over the past year, many of the few foreign internet companies still active in China have taken similar steps. In October, LinkedIn announced it would shut down its Chinese site, citing a difficult operating environment. Soon after, Yahoo followed suit.
Like many big internet services, Grindr found itself stuck between the United States and China. The US government forced Grindr’s former Chinese owner to sell the company in 2020 over national security concerns over sensitive data the company had.