Grindr is to implement additional security measures to help protect users of the dating app in countries such as Egypt, Iran and Lebanon.
The tech giant has collaborated with global free speech organization Article 19 on the changes. They want to protect users in anti-gay countries in the Middle East and Africa.
These changes will include the ability for users to change the distinctive Grindr app icon on their phone. They will also be able to create a security password to open the app.
‘Ensuring the safety of our users worldwide is a top priority’
Jack Harrison-Quintana, Director of Grindr for Equality, said in a statement: ‘Ensuring the safety of our users worldwide is a top priority for Grindr.
‘In addition to changes to our architecture we have been working with regional activists to put out weekly, and at times of heightened scrutiny, daily notifications providing safety tips to avoid police entrapment as well as information about how to contact local LGBTQ resources.’
Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19 said: ‘This partnership is helping to keep LGBTQ people safe in countries where their sexuality puts them at risk of arrest, prison and even torture.
‘Ultimately we want governments in these countries to stop their persecution of people based on their sexual identity, but these practical changes can help to reduce the impact of these repressive crackdowns.
‘This is also a partnership that demonstrates how human rights groups and for profit businesses can work together to help mitigate human rights abuses.’
Same-sex sexual activity remains illegal in Egypt, Iran and many African countries. Authorities in Egypt have conducted a crackdown on LGBTI communities, with up to 70 men being arrested in the last two months.
Earlier this week, a court in Egypt sentenced 16 men to jail for ‘abnormal’ sexual relations – with sentences up to three years. The men are currently released under bail pending an appeal hearing.
A gay man in Beirut, Lebanon, who wished to remain anonymous, told GSN he welcomed the Grindr developments.
‘I think it is a great idea, specially for people in Egypt, Iran and the Arab Gulf countries because they are threatened by police. For Lebanon, maybe it make a difference for discreet gays and married men, but it won’t make much difference for out men like me.’
Lebanon is considered one of the more progressive Middle East countries. Activists hosted a Pride arts-based festival in Beirut earlier this year.
‘Alternate, visually innocuous icon’
Grindr was launched in 2009. It is the second biggest gay men’s app in the world, behind the China-launched Blued social network. It is now available in 192 countries.
Earlier this year, Grindr was sold to Chinese-based gaming company, Beijing Kunlun Tech. The gaming company bought a 60% stake in the company in 2016 and bought the remaining stake this year.
GSN approached Grindr to ask for more details about the app changes. Specifically whether users outside of the Middle East and Africa will be able to take advantage of these security enhancements.
A spokesperson sent the following statement: ‘Grindr will allow users to change the standard Grindr icon into an alternate, visually innocuous icon that has nothing to do with Grindr. For the safety of our users, we are unable to disclose what the new icon will look like.
‘The icon and passcode options will be available to users later this year in select regions including the Middle East, Gulf Region, and North Africa. We are committed to protecting our users around the world and will continue to roll out safety features to locations that are in need.’