Before the data bandits and peddlers got access to and made use of our personal information, advertising companies would use a scatter gun approach to find their target audiences. One of the few tools they had at their disposal would be different TV time slots. Sweets and chocolates were advertised around the time that kids got home from school and would be watching cartoons. Then ads aimed at adults for alcohol and the like were broadcast later in the evening. The ingenuity and at times hilarity of TV ads would certainly get our attention.
But now a more targeted form of advertising is the name of the game. There is nothing fancy or interesting about it, just an in-your-face product pops up on your screen. A shoe, a dress, a car, whatever….but eerily they all have something in common in that you, the hapless browser of the internet, do in fact somehow have a particular interest in these items....
It is common knowledge that the likes of Facebook are harvesting and selling your data. Users put it out there and, since you accepted the "terms and conditions", Zuckerberg happily sells what you have given to him on a plate. Other forms of data harvesting by just your cellphone alone are currently being highlighted on this blog. But there is something more sinister going on….
There have been embarrassing data breaches at several online dating sites over the years, such as Ashley Madison and AdultFriendFinder. However, for one of these setups to actually go out and deliberately sell your information to the highest bidder is beyond the pale. It seems that Grindr is one such case. These guys cater to the LGBT community, a section of our society which has the greatest need for its privacy to be protected as the dangers of being outed in many countries around the world can be extreme. On top of that, those who have a need to use Grindr should, just like the rest of us, have a right to privacy and not expect their information to be sold.
Users habits, interests and behaviour are all being collected by Grindr. On top of that, when opening the app, advertisers will get your GPS location plus a notification that you are actually on Grindr. This information is then combined with additional details retrieved from other social media accounts, connected devices and browsing history. This is a gross violation of privacy and represents commercial surveillance at its worst. Whilst consumers will continue using these types of sites and apps, there is not much they can do to shift the balance of power in their favour.
Fortunately, in the EU at least, this kind of corporate behaviour is very much against European data protection laws. Action is currently being taken against Grindr and several others who are engaged in these practices.
Profiling individuals for advertising purposes based upon their inner desires and needs, be they LGBT or heterosexual, is not a path that we should be going down.