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Grindr Logo

Grindr, launched in 2009, is the largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people.[1] Grindr was the first gay dating app to launch on the iTunes App Store,[2] and has four million daily active users in almost 200 countries. The app uses geolocation through mobile device's hardware to display people from nearest to furthest away from proximity to the user.[3]

Grindr has free or subscription-based versions, which offers different capabilities and are detailed later in this article. The objective of the app is to garner relationships (sexual, romantic, friendships, or networking) based on locational distance. [4]The app was initially applauded for how it changed the connection and communication of LGBTQ people. More recently, Grindr has been under scrutiny over user location data privacy, and overall allowance of discriminatory behavior on the app.

History and Use

Grindr was created by tech entrepreneur Joel Simkai in Los Angeles, California. [5] The app started as an Apple app as of March 25th, 2009. There were online dating services before Grindr, such as gaydar[6], but they were web based platforms and not available as mobile apps.

In January 2011, Grindr won the IDate Award for Best Mobile Dating App. Later that year Grindr launched the app for Android devices. Furthermore, the updated version of the app allowed users to download a free version or premium version. The premium version of the app featured no banner ads, favorites, more visible profiles, and the capability of push notifications. The application continued to win awards the following years.[7]

Grindr began receiving criticism aroundAugust 2013 when an updated version of the app was pushed out. This update required users to provide a valid email address, which was criticized because of the decrease in anonymity. Grindr said this was to improve portability and reduce overall spam on the application.[8]

In 2016 Grindr was sold at a 60 percent stake to a Chinese gaming company Beijing Kunlun Tech. Founder and CEO, Simkhai, called the sale "a huge vote of confidence in our vision to connect gay men to even more of the world around them." [9] The remainder of the company was sold to Kunlun Tech early 2018.[10]

In 2019 the United Stats Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) in the United States informed Kunlun that Chinese ownership of Grindr constitutes as a national security risk. [11] CFIUS' have been having concerns surrounding the safety of personal data apps handle, especially if it is in any way involving the United States military or intelligence personnel. However, neither company nor CFIUS representatives commented on the case, but Kunlun has been forced to sell its stake in Grindr by June 2020.[12]

App Layout


An email, password, and date of birth is required to use Grindr. Another option is using Google or Facebook for simple login. One then has to agree to the Terms of Service to use Grindr.

Grindr Profile


Profile pictures are the first thing other Grindr users will see. One can choose to upload a photo or leave it blank. One can input a Display Name for the Grindr profile, which is shown. There are options to “show age,” which can be toggled to be turned off. This is followed by the “Looking For” section which depicts what type of relationship a person is looking for on the app. These include “Chat, Dates, Friends, Networking”, etc. There is an “About Me” field, which allows one to give a short description about themselves. “My Tribes” consists of words that describe the persons identity, such as jock, bear, trans, etc. The last option is to add a person’s social media account to their profile, such as Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Using the App

The apps’ main page is laid out in a grid, with generally the user in the first position, and from left to right, locational distance of other users around you. There are differing features between the free version of the app and the premium version.

Free Version

The free version of Grindr allows creation of profile and some basic features. Free version features include:[13]

  • Create a Profile
  • Email, Password, Date of birth, Turn on location services
  • Edit Profile
  • Display Name, About Me
  • Stats: Age, Height, Weight, Ethnicity, Body Type, Position, Tribes, Relationship Status, Looking For
  • Sexual Health: HIV Status, Last Tested Date
  • Social: You can add your Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook account
  • Upload Photo
  • Take a photo or choose from one of your social galleries
  • Photo review typically takes 20-45 minutes depending on volume
  • Message other members and read their messages they send you
  • Basic filtering of matches by using their general location

Some of the premium content not included:

  • No banner ads
  • See 6x the profiles, up to 600 at once
  • Unlimited blocks and favorites
  • Access to all filters and views
  • Chat easily with saved phrases
  • Send multiple photos at once
Premium Version

There are two types of premiums on Grindr. Grindr Xtra ($24.99) and Grindr Unlimited ($49.00) a month.[14] Premium versions' additional features:[15]

  • No banner ads, no interstitial ads
  • Personalized push notifications
  • View up to 600 people
  • Chat, Tap and Favorite Users via Explore mode
  • Online-only view (filtering option)
  • Additional Filters
  • More Grindr Tribes
  • Unlimited Blocks & Favorites
  • Swipe through profiles
  • Save and send chat phrases
  • Quick-send recent photos
  • Read Receipts
  • Filter and mark profiles as "recently chatted"
  • Discreet App Icon (incognito browsing)
  • PIN (added security)


Grindr has been viewed as changing sex culture among gay men. Before access to locational applications and web platforms, having sex with other men always depended on places hidden from authorities. Before mobile applications there were standard cruising[16] practices (finding gay men to have sex with), including the use of personal ads in the back of magazines, phone sex operations, bars, etc. Grindr has changed this behavior, by opening the app, seeing men that are close, and having the opportunity to ask for sex, without having to leave their house. There is the possibility of immediate, on demand sex.[17][18]

Drug use

Grindr Drug Example
Grindr Drug Example

Sexual minorities, such as LGBTQ, have higher rates of substance abuse than heterosexuals. Studies have shown that LGBT people are twice as likely as heterosexual adults to have used illicit drugs within a year. It is also shown that sexual minorities are more likely to experience a substance use disorder and generally a more severe substance use disorder than heterosexual counterparts. Drug use is believed to be increased in the LGBTQ community because of social stigma, discrimination, and other stressors surrounding a minority sexuality. [19]

Grindr has been criticized for rapid drug use and not doing anything about monitoring drug use. If users are looking for specific codes, they can easily find drugs on Grindr. Within Grindr profiles, the random capitalization of the let "T" refers to illicit drug use. A common screen name on the app"parTy and play", where the capitalized "T" refers to the illegal drug meth's street name, "Tina" and "play" refers to sexual encounters while on drugs. Although some users are explicit in where they stand with drugs instead of putting it into code. There are also various emojis that are used to refer to the selling or using of drugs. Grindr has tried to combat the selling of drugs, but it does not seem like people are permanently banned, just given warnings to stop. Drug dealers reference only using Grindr to sell drugs because of the lack of real censorship or action taken when their account is flagged. Under U.S. law apps are not required to take action concerning moderating drug content. However, undercover police have used the app to catch people selling drugs.[20]

Underage Users

Grindr's community guidelines are adamant that users under the age of 18 are not allowed on Grindr. There is an in-app tool to report any underage user who may be improperly using the app.[21] During account setup, if the user is below the age of 18 it will not allow them to create a profile, but many underage users circumvent this process by lying about their age. If an account is flagged by a user for being underage it is taken seriously and the person is banned from the app.

There are many issues with underage users using the app. First, a youthful person may lie about their age to older people, wanting to have sex, and then if sent photos or have sexual relationships with the underage person, with or without prior knowledge of their age, and by doing this may have committed felonies. Secondly, these young people could be putting themself in danger, as the application has no screening process for sexual offenders. There have been an uptick of rape cases with young men who used the app and didn't intend to have sex, but were then raped. Grindr has been criticized for their weak age verification practices and are now under scrutiny by the U.S. Government. [22] Taking advantage of young looking users happens often because of the fact that they look young, which is particularly unethical as Stephanie Patridge, a Department Chair of Religion and Phiosophy at Otterbein University wrote in a paper titled "Pornography, ethics and video games". She writes about how virtual child pornography harms because such imagery "sexualizes inequality, specifically it sexualizes that unequal relationships occurs between an adult and child."[23]

Ethical Implications

This article has reviewed some inherent ethical implications from drug use to underage users. Ethical implications surrounding this app from foreign government's ownership and access to worldly homosexual locational data and private messages, to racism and body shaming. Furthermore, technology ethics comes into play when people constructing their online identity.

Chinese Ownership

China is not extraordinarily progressive when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Same sex activity is legal, and as of 2001 homosexuality was declassified as a mental illness. However, homosexual couples do not have the same legal protections available to their heterosexual counterparts and are unable to marry or adopt.[24] As stated before, the CFUIS has declared the selling of Grindr from Chinese company Kunlan Tech mandatory by June 2020 due to considering the Chinese having Grindr data a national security issue. Chinese government has access to people's email address, personal messages, and photos. This includes closeted powerful individuals across the world. Take Apple's CEO Tim Cook, an openly gay man, but if he has said anything explicit or done anything explicit on Grindr the Chinese government could blackmail one of the world's most powerful men.[25] Surveillance by the Chinese government, or any government within the realm being able to surveillance their country's private data associates, questions who is to check the government surveyors and the data they are perusing. The U.S. government was worried about "who is to check the surveyors" and deemed it necessary for another private company, that isn't associated with their government, to buy the business.[26]

Many of these statements are hypotheticals, as there has been no indication that China has done anything known yet with Grindr data. However, the are implications of what could be with Grindr's data done pose ethical implications on information transparency, and how collected information is used.

Disclosure of Information

Grindr has already been shown to share and sell user information to 3rd party companies, such as dating choices and precise location data.[27] The companies the data was shared with may also sell the data to other companies. One service, MoPub, shares data with 180 partner companies, and one of their partners is AT&T who may share the data with more than 1,000 third party providers. Grindr states in their privacy policy that it can do what it will with the data from the user. The privacy policy uses phrasing like "some personal data about your use of the Grindr Services and certain third-party service ..."[28]

Disclosure of information and information transparency indicate whether a companies' activities are inline with fairness, information privacy, social welfare, or environmental care. Selling information without outwardly expressing their intent with the data directly negates the typical examples of ethical principles that regulate the flow of information: privacy and anonymity.[29]


Racism and discrimination on types of gay people, within the gay community, are prevalent on Grindr. A Huff Post article provided an accurate depiction of both racism, body shaming, and discrimination on stereotypes: "Too short, or too tall (“over 5’7” and under 6’1”), Asian (“not into rice,” “gook free zone”), fat (“175lbs or less”), fem (“no broken wrists,” “masculinity is not subjective”), black (“no chocolate,” “All blacks, keep moving cuz I ain’t interested unless u can prove not all blacks are the exact same mkay?”), not as hot as the profile owner, Latino, ugly, hairy, old (“no older than 30”), closeted, uncloseted, bisexual, not bisexual, not a college guy, not a jock, a fag, into the scene, a ginger, Catholic, Republican, not “musc,” not “prof,” not “VGL.”"[30] These are not only examples of blatant racism, but also discrimination of types of people within a marginalized community.


Grindr has been criticized not only for users having blatant racial discriminating phrasing and "My Type" categories, but also in the "type" of gay men. Trying to date through apps like Grindr can lead to racist abuse and intolerance. Things are often profiles stating "no blacks" or "no latinos" that people wouldn't say in regular life. Racist comments are normalized on Grindr and common. 96 percent of users saw racist remarks in profiles in a 2015 study.[31] The app allows users to filter base off of race.[32]

Stereotypes / Body Shaming

The LGBTQ community is a place where they know how it feels to be discriminated against. However, there is abundant discrimination with the common statement "No Fats No Fems" that appears frequently on the app. Another frequent statement is "Masc for Masc," which alludes to a gay man whom acts straight. These statements and group think within the app which enforce high standards of how a person should act and look.

Location and Lawful Discrimination

There are about 72 countries where being queer is illegal. Russia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates are all countries that have used Grindr's location data to pinpoint LGBTQ people. These countries triangulated positions to discriminate, entrap and arrest gay people. In Iran, where the app is blocked, the legal punishment can be execution.[33][34]


  1. Grindr About Page,
  2. " Grindr was the first big dating app for gay men. Now it’s falling out of favor. ", Jon Shadel, December 6th, 2018,
  3. " The best LGBTQ dating apps for Android and iOS",, Steven Winkelman, February 6, 2020
  4. "I have a specific type. How do I search using filters?", Grindr Help Center,
  5. " ", Israeli Founder of Grindr Talks About Growing Up Gay and Coming Out to His Family, Doron Halutz,Jun 28, 2016,
  6. "Gay Dar",
  7. Grindr Named ‘Best Mobile Dating Site’ at 2011 iDate Awards, Grindr Blog, January 24, 2011,
  8. "Overrun by spambots, gay dating app Grindr to end anonymous signups", Casey Newton, Jul 26, 2013,
  9. "Chinese Gaming Firm Buys 60% Of Gay Dating App Grindr For $93M", Jon Russell, January 11, 2016,
  10. "Grindr planning stock market listing as Chinese owner gives approval for float, Caitlin Morrison, August 30, 2018,
  11. "Exclusive: Told U.S. security at risk, Chinese firm seeks to sell Grindr dating app", Carl O'Donnell, Liana B. Baker, Echo Wang, March 27, 2019,
  12. "From ‘Kànzhe?’ to ‘Guardare?’ – Grindr’s New Owner May Be Italian", Staff, January 22, 2020,
  13. Dating Sites Reviews, March 12, 2020,
  14. "Now You Can Pay $50 Per Month for Grindr", Mikelle Street, July 25, 2019,
  15. "Grindr Help",
  16. "Cruising for Sex",
  17. "Grindr has changed sex culture among gay men", Eskild Heinemeier, October 13, 2017,
  18. PHD thesis on Grindr affecting intimacy, Moller ,p.7-8, 70-80,
  19. "Substance Use and SUDs in LGBTQ* Populations", National Institute on Drug Abuse, September 2017,
  20. "Sex and drugs: Popular gay dating app allows users to find more than a date", Denio Lourenco, August 1, 2018,
  21. Grindr Community Guidelines,
  22. "Tinder, Bumble, and Grindr Are Under Investigation For Allowing Minors", Victoria Song, January 31, 2020,
  23. Patridge, S., 2013. Pornography, Ethics, And Video Games. [ebook] Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht, p.29. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 March 2020].
  24. LGBT rights in China,
  25. "China has access to Grindr activity. We should all be worried.", Isaac Stone Fish, April 9, 2019,
  26. "Veillance and Reciprocal Transparency: Surveillance versus Sousveillance, AR Glass, Lifeglogging, and Wearable Computing", Steve Mann
  27. "Grindr and OkCupid Spread Personal Details, Study Says", January 13, 2020,
  29. Turilli, Matteo and Luciano Floridi. 2009. “The ethics of information transparency.” Ethics and Information Technology 11 (2): 105-112
  30. "'No Fats or Fems', Dale Cooper, HuffPost, October 12, 2012,
  31. "Is Sexual Racism Really Racism? Distinguishing Attitudes Toward Sexual Racism and Generic Racism Among Gay and Bisexual Men", Denton Callander, Christy E. Newman & Martin Hol, July 7, 2015,
  32. "Why is it OK for online daters to block whole ethnic groups?", Chris Stokel-Walker, September 29, 2018,
  33. "How Grindr Changed Gay Life Forever", Even Moffitt, December 23, 2019,
  34. "Grindr Around the World, Tom Faber, November 29, 2019,