PRIEST OUTED VIA GRINDR APP HIGHLIGHTS RAMPANT DATA TRACKING
Techlife News|Techlife News #508
When a religious publication used smartphone app data to deduce the sexual orientation of a high-ranking Roman Catholic official, it exposed a problem that goes far beyond a debate over church doctrine and priestly celibacy.
With few U.S. restrictions on what companies can do with the vast amount of data they collect from web page visits, apps and location tracking built into phones, there’s not much to stop similar spying on politicians, celebrities and just about anyone that’s a target of another person’s curiosity — or malice.

Citing allegations of “possible improper behavior,” the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced the resignation of its top administrative official, Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, ahead of a report by the Catholic news outlet The Pillar that probed his private romantic life.

The Pillar said it obtained “commercially available” location data from a vendor it didn’t name that it “correlated” to Burrill’s phone to determine that he had visited gay bars and private residences while using Grindr, a dating app popular with gay people.

“Cases like this are only going to multiply,” said Alvaro Bedoya, director of the Center for Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law School.

Privacy activists have long agitated for laws that would prevent such abuses, although in the U.S. they only exist in a few states, and then in varying forms. Bedoya said the firing of Burrill should drive home the danger of this situation, and should finally spur Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to act.

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