Are you familiar with the conglomerate Kunlun? They are the proud new owners of social network/dating site, Grindr, and thus have access to all the profiles, chats and intra-app contact between the 3.3 million daily users. They are also located in China.

Grindr is the number one online gay dating site in the world. China remains many years (perhaps another generation) behind other nations in its acceptance of LGBT community. In 2001, the government removed homosexuality from its list of psychiatric disorders. Recently, a university student  in Guangzhou, using the pseudonym “Xixi,” sued Jinan University Press (JUP) and online retailer for publishing and distributing a psychology textbook that describes being gay as, “abnormal,” “deranged,” and a “disorder”” according to the SupChina blog, in their piece, “Suing the homophobia out of  China’s textbooks.”

The acquisition of Grindr now puts in the hands of the Chinese intelligence apparatus additional information for their global targeting dossier they are building on individuals across the world. This information, coupled with the information obtained in the Ashley Madison breach, and the OPM cleared personnel and Equifax breaches, continues to demonstrate the concerted effort to obtain as much information on persons of current and future interest.

china’s dating site acquisition

According to TechCrunch, when Kunlun finished their $145 million acquisition, they replaced Grindr’s CEO with current board chairman, Yahui Zhou.  Kunlun was part of the Chinese led consortium which attempted to purchase all of Opera browser for $1.2 billion and settled on $600 million for the Opera consumer business. Why wasn’t the deal for all of Opera consummated? U.S. regulators shot it down due to privacy concerns.

What does this mean to you?

You, as a professional who enjoys the trust of the United States by virtue of having been granted a security clearance, should take the above on board. As noted, China continues to build the mosaic of individuals around the globe, piece by piece. China is a known actor, and its motives are clear – to build a robust dossier on foreigners for intelligence purposes.

If you are using Grindr, be aware information shared within the app is information you are potentially sharing with the Chinese government. It would be naive to think that with the change in ownership of Grindr, that this information is inaccessible to Chinese intelligence.

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Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) is an author and speaker on the topic of security strategy. Christopher, served 30+ years within the Central Intelligence Agency. He lived and worked in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central Europe, and Latin America. Upon his retirement, the CIA awarded him the Career Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the highest level of career recognition. Christopher co-authored the book, “Secrets Stolen, Fortunes Lost, Preventing Intellectual Property Theft and Economic Espionage in the 21st Century” (Syngress, March 2008).