The former chief privacy officer at Grindr is suing the company behind the LGBTQ dating app for wrongful termination regarding alleged privacy violations he raised that new management ignored.
Ron De Jesus filed his lawsuit June 14 in California state court. In his complaint, he said Grindr “placed profit over privacy” by getting rid of him and his internal reports after a pair of notable privacy-related scandals at the company.
Grindr in 2018 acknowledged it shared the HIV status of its users with two third parties, which sparked public backlash. The company said it would immediately discontinue the practice.
In December 2021, Grindr was fined 65 million Norwegian krone (then-U.S. $7.2 million) by Norway’s data protection authority for sharing personal data with third parties without users’ consent in violation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. The data allegedly shared without consent included GPS location; user profile data; and the fact the user in question was on Grindr, which could cause discrimination.
In the aftermath of these incidents, Grindr in September 2022 announced George Arison as its new chief executive officer and Vanna Krantz as its new chief financial officer. Upon them joining the company, Grindr’s initiative to shore up its privacy controls “came to a screeching halt,” De Jesus claimed in his complaint.
The company’s new executive team “targeted Mr. De Jesus for trying to shed light on privacy violations at Grindr,” according to the complaint. De Jesus claimed he was retaliated against and ultimately fired in January after highlighting privacy shortcomings at the company, including an alleged technical bug that allowed for billions of sensitive user photos to be stored, even those linked to deleted accounts. The complaint said the bug might still be active and the data could potentially be accessed by any Grindr employee or third-party vendor through a backdoor.
“Mr. De Jesus’ claims are definitively inaccurate,” Grindr spokesperson Patrick Lenihan said in an emailed statement. “Mr. De Jesus was terminated for being ineffective and for poorly managing Grindr’s privacy practices, which were his primary responsibility. Through his professional failings, Mr. De Jesus put Grindr and Grindr’s users at risk.”