Russian regulators have ordered the popular dating app Tinder to comply with the country’s new Internet data laws, raising concerns that the country’s security services could get access to citizens’ intimate exchanges.
Roskomnadzor added Tinder on May 31 to the list of “information disseminators” — which includes websites, apps, and messenger services — that must store local users data on servers inside the country. Inclusion in the list requires companies to collect and hand over data should security services request it.
In a statement to RFE/RL on June 3, Tinder did not say whether it would hand over information if the Russian security services requested it.
“We received a request to register with the Russian authorities, and, as of now, we have registered to be compliant. However, this registration in no way shares any user or personal data with any Russian regulatory bodies and we have not handed over any data to their government,” a Tinder spokesperson said.
The company’s website states it may disclose personal information when required by law, “such as a court order, subpoena, or search warrant, government/law enforcement investigation or other legal requirements.” Owned by the U.S.-based Match Group, Tinder is used by people around to world to find romantic relationships by liking photos and sending messages.
The app collects data about its users, including their personal interests, photos, videos, messages, and profiles of people they like to enhance the service, the company says on its website. Tinder also stores debit- and credit-card information of those that subscribe to premium services.
Russia passed a law in 2015 requiring select domestic and foreign companies to retain the personal computer data of its citizens on servers inside the country. Other countries have passed similar laws.
Companies that refuse to comply with Russia’s new law risk being added to the country’s Internet blacklist and banned from operating inside the country. Russia banned the professional job networking website LinkedIn in 2016 for failing to comply with the law.
Russia has already added dating websites to the list of companies required to comply with the new Internet laws, including Badoo and Mamba. Yandex, VKontakte, and Mail.ru, Russia’s leading Internet companies, are also on the list.
Anton Orekh, a commentator for the Ekho Moskvy radio station, said Russian citizens don’t have to worry about the government peeking at their love messages on Tinder. The state does not have the resources to read this “gigantic volume of messages and stickers.”
“While the authorities are trying to keep a few hundred opposition activists on a leash, they are really poking their nose in the life of millions of apolitical citizens, slowly turning these citizens against them,” he said.
Maria Snegovaya, a former columnist for the business daily Vedomosti, agreed, saying the secret services collect more data than they can possibly analyze. “Fortunately for a lot of Russian people, that is a salvation and hopefully that is going to be the case here,” Snegovaya, now an adjunct fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis, told RFE/RL.
However, the state could try to collect data on specific individuals considered a threat, such as members of the opposition, in an attempt to blackmail them, especially if a person has non-conventional sexual preferences, she said.
Tinder is the most downloaded dating app in the world, according to the mobile market data provider AppAnnie, and it has a big presence in Russia. The dating app experienced a huge spike in usage in Russia during the World Cup in 2018. In March, about 185,000 Russians living in cities of 100,000 or more people used the app every day, according to a study by Mediascope. (RFERL)