Grindr adjusts privacy settings to protect LGBTQ+ Olympic athletes in China

The Winter Olympics opening ceremony and the Grindr logo
The app was used to 'out' gay athletes at previous Olympics. Photo credit: Getty Images

Grindr has adjusted its privacy settings to protect athletes from harassment and potential persecution during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

The LGBTQ+ hookup app has disabled the 'Explore' feature for those in or near the Olympic Village to stop app users worldwide being able to view the profiles of the athletes.

Anyone in the Village will still be able to use Grindr to find users close by.

"Olympians come to the games from every country around the world, from places that have enshrined freedom of self-expression in their constitutions to places where, unfortunately, it is considered illegal to be LGBTQ+," Jack Harrison-Quintana, director of Grindr for Equality said.

"We want Grindr to be a space where all queer athletes, regardless of where they're from, feel confident connecting with one another while they're in the Olympic Village."

Anyone accessing the popular app from the Beijing bubble will be greeted with an alert that says: "Your privacy is important to us. Our Explore feature has been disabled in the Olympic Village so that people outside your immediate area can't browse here."

The change was first reported by Bloomberg News, which said it's the first time the company has done this for Olympics, but it has disabled the functionality in countries where being gay can be risky or illegal.

Last week Grindr deleted its app from China's App Store amid compliance issues with the country's laws.

There has been a history of LGBTQ+ athletes being identified and outed using Grindr at previous Olympic Games.

During the 2020 Tokyo games, people used the app to post identifying information from profiles to other social media. This included the picture and profile of at least one athlete from a country where homosexuality is illegal.

Grindr released a statement at the time demanding the individuals remove social media posts that include images from the platform, highlighting it breached its terms and conditions.

In 2016 a now infamous Daily Beast article by a straight, married writer wrote about his experience of using Grindr at the Rio Olympics to lure athletes for hook-ups.

The Guardian reported the writer gave the "height, weight, nationality and language of an athlete from a country where discrimination and violence against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community is widespread".

The piece was widely criticised and the website initially tried to placate those complaining by removing some of the identifying details about athletes.

After realising it hadn't gone far enough, the website deleted the article and published an apology.