Grindr warns its users in Egypt and other countries that they may not be safe on the social networking site as the Egyptian government cracks down on the LGBT community by going on Grindr and hunting for Egypt-based members.

Grindr, the very same app that allows gay men and women to connect with like-minded friends and lovers in a community hostile to covert displays of homosexuality, is now putting its Egyptian members in danger. Bloggers and LGBT activists have called out the location-based website, which shows users' location and distance from other users by default. This feature, initially meant to make it easier for users to find other members who live nearby, is now being used by Egyptian authorities to locate homosexuals in the community by creating fake accounts and meeting up with the members in an entrapment operation.

"Egypt is arresting LGBT people and police may be posing as LGBT on social media to entrap you," Grindr warns its users. "Please be careful about arranging meetings with people you don't know and be careful about posting anything that might reveal your identity."  

Earlier this month, Grindr announced it was taking steps to improve security for its users in Egypt and other countries known to for their anti-LGBT stance, including Liberia, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. These steps include hiding users' distance from other members hidden by default.

"There are many more countries already being protected by this location change, and we will continue to add more to this list," says Grindr.  

SCRUFF, a similar site that claims to have more than 7 million users, half of which are located outside the United States, says it is also taking proactive measures to secure users, and is turning on the hide distance feature by default.

Still, Grindr warns that governments have ample resources to conduct online surveillance on the LGBT community and may have ways to get around security measures put in place by Grindr. For instance, although users do not have their exact location posted, surveillance engineers have developed a way to pinpoint users' locations by combining the users' distance from three separate locations.

"They have a lot of control and smarts on their side," says Joel Simkhai, CEO of Grindr. "We try to use the latest technologies on our end, but so do they, so this tension will continue. If your security is a big issue for you, a location-based service might not be the best option."

There are no laws banning homosexuality in Egypt, but local authorities have routinely charged LGBT individuals on various offenses of "committing debauchery," "violating public decency" and "contempt of religion." The latest in a stream of arrests involving homosexuals are for six men sentenced to two years in jail who were, according to authorities, were "caught red-handed" putting up their apartment for rent for sexual activities. The men, who were said to have been charging $200 a night, were also fined approximately $30 each.

Earlier this week, eight other men were put on trial for appearing in a video that has gone viral on Egyptian social media showing two men exchanging rings and kissing in what looks like a marriage ceremony. Their friends surrounded them, cheering in the background. If convicted, the men could face three years of imprisonment.

It is not just law enforcement workers chasing after LGBT individuals on Grindr and SCRUFF. Earlier this year, a Pakistani man was arrested on charges of killing three gay men after meeting them via London-based Manjam. The suspect told police he considered homosexuality evil.

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Tags: Grindr LGBT