When the internet was invented, its creators probably didn’t anticipate how it would revolutionize the dating scene. But there’s no doubting the impact apps like Tinder and Grindr have had on modern sexual relations.
Take Grindr. It’s gone from a very niche smartphone app to a global phenomenon with over 4 million users. it’s liberated those in the LGBTQ community to meet like-minded people, and to make their sex lives richer and more exciting than ever.
However, the success of dating tools like this hasn’t gone unnoticed by the powers that be. Not all states are happy for their citizens to pursue same-sex relationships, and some actively block controversial apps. Even in liberal states, hackers have compromised apps, making them riskier to use.
So how can you unlock Grindr and make it a safe place to play? That’s what this blog is all about, and it turns out there’s one very important answer: use a VPN. Here’s why.
Why a VPN should be part of every Grindr user’s toolkit
Virtual Private Networks may not seem that sexy, but they can help you meet the partner of your dreams. For those who don’t know, these apps create encrypted “tunnels” between smartphones or laptops and private servers. Data from users pass through these servers, which assign the user an anonymous IP address, making their identity and location almost invisible to outsiders.
These properties are great in situations where state officials would love to know who is visiting certain websites. And they are absolutely essential for all Grindr users.
Neutralize government censorship and liberate your sex life
Most importantly, VPNs can help to work around government blocks which seek to wipe Grindr off the local dating map. Here’s a quick sample of countries currently implementing these blocks partially or in full:
- Saudi Arabia – unsurprisingly, the Gulf monarchy has a very intolerant approach when it comes to gay dating, and has imposed a total ban on the dating platform since it first appeared. Even VPN users regularly document encounters with “religious police” in the site, who are seeking to entrap unwary people, so it’s a really hostile place to hook up.
- Turkey – Ankara first banned the app in 2013, spurred on by a revival of religious piety under the AKP government. Nothing has changed since then, but a lively activist campaign continues to fight to loosen the shackles.
- Iran – the Islamic Revolution hasn’t been kind to Iran’s gay dating scene, and users there have never had access to smartphone apps. That doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon.
- Russia – Russia suffers from a vocal, homophobic nationalist movement, sections of which have resorted to hacking gay dating sites. And the state has also cracked down periodically, making Grindr a no-go zone for many gay singles.
- Ukraine – gay dating sites have been suppressed since a government edict in 2017, which cracked down on all social media platforms. As with Russia, Ukraine has a right-wing nationalist movement, which is actively hostile to LGBTQ rights, and online dating has been caught in the crossfire.
- Indonesia – Jakarta has periodically blocked, then allowed gay dating apps, but its general policy is one of hostility towards LGBTQ rights. Accessing Grindr is far from assured for visitors and locals alike.
- UAE – following the Saudi lead, the UAE has put gay dating sites well and truly off limits for local users, although they are still widely used with the right technological fixes.
- Egypt – Egypt is one of those countries where, while gay dating online isn’t banned, the state makes it extremely hazardous. Users have regularly been caught up in sting operations to “catch” homosexuals, and an outright ban is never far away.
Additionally, the dating site has been employed in Malaysia as an intelligence gathering tool to discover gay men, and Lebanon has implemented an off-and-on ban. In all of these countries, the state seeks to dissuade people from signing up, and many of them operate fake profiles to entrap users when they try to make contacts.
However, none of these countries have been able to prevent local access to Grindr. That’s because when used properly, VPNs are capable of circumventing even the most watertight censorship. But remember, if you do log onto the dating app in repressive countries, it’s best to remain vigilant. To help you stay safe, have a read through our LGBTQ Online Safety Guide – it’s a good resource for anyone, but especially those seeking to beat online censorship.
A history of shocking data breaches
Unfortunately, government surveillance and censorship isn’t the only issue confronting Grindr users. All across the world, users have to contend with the threat posed by hackers. Personal information on dating sites is always a lucrative resource, both for targeted phishers and outright blackmailers (as Ashley Madison showed). And savvy hackers have long had Grindr in their crosshairs.
This hasn’t been helped by security flaws within the app itself. For instance, in 2018 cybersecurity experts showed how the app was leaking location data and messages sent by users, even if they had opted out of location services.
In another 2018 expose, Buzzfeed reported that the dating app had been sharing information about users’ HIV status with third parties.
Then there’s the tangled issue of who controls Grindr. The app is currently 60% owned by a Chinese company, but the US state is seeking to change this, citing national security concerns. On one hand, users might be uncomfortable sharing personal data with a Chinese organization. On the other, the prospect of handing over data to the NSA raises huge privacy concerns. Either way, protecting your identity is becoming a vital part of everyday Grindr usage.
VPNs can supply at least part of this protection. They can limit the amount of location data the dating platform holds about users, restricting identifiable information to whatever they feel it necessary to supply. That should make it much harder to build profiles of users for blackmail and phishing while limiting the risks of surveillance as well.
How to use a VPN to unblock Grindr wherever you are
So, let’s assume you want to access Grindr safely in a repressive jurisdiction, or you want to anonymise your usage in other parts of the world. We know that a VPN is part of the solution, but not all VPNs will do. Defeating sophisticated government surveillance makes intense demands on VPNs, and most providers can’t be relied upon. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of countries, alongside the VPN of choice to use within their borders:
- Saudi Arabia – NordVPN
- Russia – NordVPN
- UAE – NordVPN
- Indonesia – NordVPN
- Iran – NordVPN
- Turkey – ExpressVPN
- Egypt – ExpressVPN
- Ukraine – ExpressVPN
You’ll probably notice a pattern emerging here. While there are hundreds of VPNs around, only a handful are trustworthy enough to provide reliable unblocking and data protection. Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN are excellent products, and won’t let you down.
Play safe on and offline with by using Grindr with a high-quality VPN
If you intend to broaden your romantic horizons via a smartphone dating app, nothing should get in your way. If only states around the world thought the same way, but sadly they don’t. Too many governments impose restrictions on how citizens can meet, and many couple these restrictions with the criminalization of homosexual lifestyles. So we need to fight back.
VPNs offer one way to do so. These extremely useful apps allow users in countries like Saudi Arabia or Russia to access Grindr (or any other dating tool), regardless of government blocks. And they help users everywhere limit the risk posed by data breaches, potentially avoiding embarrassment or blackmail.
Just remember. If you do use a VPN, use a good one. Free VPNs won’t provide adequate protection, so you’ll probably have to pay. We shouldn’t have to pay for love, but in a world where people can be killed for their sexuality, it’s often a price we’d be foolish not to pay.