There have been some major developments regarding the case by the Norwegian Consumer Council against the dating app, Grindr. Filed in 2020, the complaint has received an update from the Norwegian Privacy Appeals Board stating that it upholds the Norwegian Data Protection Authority’s fine of NOK 65 million (approximately $6 million).
The complaint was regarding concerns about Grindr’s surveillance-based advertising – an illegal practice where companies collect and share personal data for commercial purposes. In today’s update, the Norwegian Data Protection Authority has followed up with the concerns, and the Norwegian Privacy Appeals Board has acknowledged that Grindr was indeed involved in sharing sensitive consumer data with corporations.
The grievance mentioned in the original case report ‘Out of Control’ stated that the dating app was sharing user information with several third parties. Those third parties further shared the information with thousands of advertising agencies making it a widespread network where user info is shared for advertising. The report argues that tracking and profiling of consumers which fuels the current ad tech industry are by their very nature exploitative practices that do not respect the General Data Protection Regulations.
This was also highlighted in a letter by the European Consumer Organisation to the Global Privacy Assembly in April 2020.
Finn Myrstad, the Director of Digital Policy at the Norwegian Consumer Council, commented that today’s update warns other companies engaging in surveillance-based advertising. He showed his satisfaction with the decision, stating the phenomenon had indeed spiraled out of control, and that following legal frameworks is essential to protect consumer rights. He added:
“This sends a strong signal to all companies involved in commercial surveillance. There are serious repercussions to sharing personal data without a legal basis. We call for the digital advertising industry, which is responsible for tracking and profiling consumers on a massive scale, to make fundamental changes to respect consumers’ rights.”
Due to the grave nature of the issue, the Norwegian Consumer Council and a large group of consumer and human rights organizations from across Europe and the United States have called for a ban on surveillance-based advertising. Not only does the illegal activity put users’ privacy at risk, but it also makes them vulnerable to manipulation and endangers society as a whole.