The gay dating app Grindr has disappeared from mobile app stores in China including Apple’s iOS App Store and Android app stores run by Chinese companies Tencent and Huawei.
The news, first reported by Bloomberg, comes just days after the Chinese government vowed to police internet content to create a “healthy” online experience, as the country prepares for Lunar New Year on Feb. 1 and the Winter Olympics, which begin in Beijing on Feb. 4.
But Grindr says it removed itself from Chinese app stores because of a Chinese new privacy law that took effect Nov. 1, 2021.
“We’ve chosen to remove our app from the app store in China due to the potential increased burden from China’s recently implemented Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL),” a Grindr spokesperson said in a statement. “We may revisit this in the future.”
Beijing and the tech crackdown
Beijing has cracked down on technology firms in the last year and a half, asserting its power over even the largest companies in its grasp. Among other moves, the Chinese government:
- Scrapped Ant Financial’s initial public offering;
- Banned downloads of ride-hailing app Didi right after its IPO;
- Changed how firms can go public through foreign shell companies;
- Demanded more transparency from apps that use algorithms.
China also has new data security and privacy laws that took effect in recent months.
The new PIPL law gives the government broad authority over information that crosses national borders. In order to comply with the new regulations, companies operating in China must seek approval from the Cyberspace Administration of China before they can send user data across national borders. Fines range between $7.7 million or up to 5% of a company’s annual revenue, reports the International Association of Privacy Professionals, a privacy trade group.
Grindr was majority-owned by a Chinese company, Beijing Kunlun Tech, from 2016 to 2020. But the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an interagency body led by the US Treasury Department, deemed it a national security threat and forced Beijing Kunlun to sell the app if it wished to remain operational in the US. A company called San Vicente Acquisition bought the app for more than $600 million in 2020; it reportedly had links to Kunlun.