Gateley affiliate Austen Hays launches class action against Grindr, advised by Cooley

High Court Claim alleges misuse of highly sensitive information including about HIV status

Austen Hays – part of Gateley Legal – has lodged a group claim in the High Court of England and Wales against Grindr, the world’s largest LGBTQ+ social networking and dating app.

The claim is being brought on behalf of potentially thousands of UK users allegedly affected by the misuse of their private and sensitive information, including their HIV status and latest tested date.

The claim alleges that Grindr, which is based in Los Angeles, breached UK data protection laws by sharing users’ sensitive data with third parties for commercial purposes without their consent, mainly before April/May 2018 and April 2020 – although it may extend to further periods.

Grindr, which is being advised by a Cooley team led by partners James Maton and Guadalupe Sampedro, has denied the allegations saying they represent a “mischaracterisation of practices” dating back more than four years ago.

Austen Hays alleges Grindr unlawfully processed and shared users’ data with third parties, including advertising companies Localytics and Apptimize, allowing other advertisers to target and customise advertisements to Grindr users.

The firm also alleges that other businesses may have retained some of the shared data for their purposes after the advertisement had been served. Additionally, the claimants say Grindr received payment or commercial benefits from those parties with whom it shared users’ data as a source of revenue in exchange for such sharing.

The claim currently has 670 claimants and Austen Hays suggests thousands more are interested in joining it.

Chaya Hanoomanjee, Austen Hays’ managing director, said: “Our clients have experienced significant distress over their highly sensitive and private information being shared without their consent, and many have suffered feelings of fear, embarrassment and anxiety as a result.

“Grindr owes it to the LGBTQ+ community it serves to compensate those whose data has been compromised and have suffered distress as a result and to ensure all its users are safe while using the app, wherever they are, without fear that their data might be shared with third parties.”

Hanoomanjee and partner Alicia Theuma are lead advisers to the group action. Matrix Chambers’ Catrin Evans KC and Ian Helme and Henderson Chambers’s Reanne McKenzie act as counsel to the class action.  

A Grindr spokesperson said: “We are committed to protecting our users’ data and complying with all applicable data privacy regulations, including in the UK. Grindr has never shared user-reported health information for “commercial purposes” and has never monetised such information. We intend to respond vigorously to this claim, which appears to be based on a mischaracterisation of practices from more than four years ago, prior to early 2020.”

In 2021 Grindr was fined $6m by the Norwegian Data Protection Authority for data privacy practices that violated the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It was also issued with a reprimand by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office in July 2022, after a finding that it had infringed UK GDPR.

Hanoomanjee and Theuma joined Gateley last summer from Slater and Gordon to set up Austen Hays. They had previously acted on other high-profile consumer collective action cases brought by consumers and businesses in the UK, such as the VW NOx Emissions group action alongside Leigh Day.

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