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Grindr's Chinese ownership a national security risk, US government reportedly says

The California-based app is owned by Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun. The US government wants that to change.

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LGBTQ dating app Grindr was bought last year by a Chinese gaming company called Beijing Kunlun. The US government considers the deal a national security risk and is pressuring Kunlun to sell, according to a Reuters report.

Kunlun fully acquired the California-based Grindr app in January of last year for an estimated $152 million after buying an initial $93 million stake in 2016, reported TechCrunch. However, neither of these transactions was cleared with the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS), according to Reuters.

CFIUS has told Kunlun that its ownership of Grindr equates to a US national security risk, the report adds. CFIUS did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment. Grindr declined to comment. 

The specific manner in which Kunlun's ownership constitutes a national security threat wasn't explained in the report. However, Grindr said last year it had 3.8 million daily users from "every country in the world," presumably excluding countries it's banned in, and 27 million users in total. Those users' data could be seen as a honeypot for unsavoury actors.

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Following its sale to Kunlun last year, Grindr released a public statement preempting user distrust of the app's new owners. "Nothing changes with how we will protect your personal information," the company noted.

"CNIUS's action shows a commendable awareness of the fact that big data is not just a matter of privacy, but also a matter of antitrust," Guido Noto La Diega, senior lecturer in cyber law at Northumbria University, said to CNET in an email. " I agree that Grindr's acquisition from a Chinese tech group exposes the LGBTQ dating app's users to some privacy and security risks, in light of Chinese laws on security, cybersecurity, and audio-visual content.

"This said, however, one could argue that the move to force Grindr's sale is not necessarily motivated by actual security and privacy concerns, since Trump has been pushing to strengthen intelligence programs that allow surveillance of targets abroad."

The reported move follows the US' systematic blockading of Huawei over similar national security firms. Huawei is known to most for its dazzling phones, but it's also in the telecommunications business. The US fears that Huawei, if commissioned to build internet infrastructure in the US, could purposefully create security flaws which the Chinese government could at some point take advantage of.

Originally published March 27.
Update, March 28: Adds comment from Guido Noto La Diega.