Grind limits visibility of Olympic athletes to protect their privacy

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LGBTQ dating app Grindr has limited the global visibility of users logging in from the Beijing Olympics Village in order to protect athletes from potential outing and harassment.

The app’s “Explore” function, which lets users browse profiles from any location worldwide, has been adjusted to exclude profiles logging in from the Olympic Village, reports Bloomberg News. Users in the Olympic Village will still be able to browse nearby profiles, but the new privacy setting should save athletes from international snooping and exposure.

In past Olympics, social media users have used the app’s Explore function to retrieve Grindr profiles from the event and share them online — a dangerous activity considering some athletes are from countries where homosexuality is either not publicly accepted or illegal.

In 2016, a reporter for The Daily Beast, Nico Hines, was accused of outing a number of athletes after using the app at the Rio Olympics to report on the games’ dating and hookup culture. Hines attended the games in person, though, which means this recent privacy update would not have stopped him from browsing profiles. The article was later removed.

Commenting on the update, director of Grindr for Equality, a department within the company, Jack Harrison-Quintana, said: “We want Grindr to be a space where all queer athletes, regardless of where they’re from, feel confident connecting with one another while they’re in the Olympic Village.”

Users logging in to Grindr from the Olympic Village will be told: “Your privacy is important to us. Our Explore feature has been disabled in the Olympic Village so that people outside your immediate area can’t browse here.”

Homosexuality is not illegal in China, with sexual acts between same-sex partners decriminalized in 1997. Nevertheless, the country has no legal protections based on citizens’ sexuality and a 2020 report from Stonewall described LGBT people as “largely invisible and neglected in [Chinese] society.” China’s government has increasingly censored gay communities in recent years, with officials decrying “the feminization of male adolescents” through popular culture.

Grindr was previously owned by Chinese tech firm Beijing Kunlun Tech from 2018 to 2020, but was sold for roughly $608.5 million after a US government committee suggested its ownership could be a security concern. Just last month, it was reported that the app was removed from China’s iOS and Android app stores.

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