Denver-based Catholics called Catholic Laity and Clergy for Renewal reportedly bought a mobile app tracking data to identify gay priests. It allegedly cost four million dollars.

Mobile App Tracking Data of Catholic Laity and Clergy for Renewal

Daily News reported that the Catholic Laity and Clergy for Renewal aim to "empower the church to carry out its mission" by providing "evidence-based resources" to church leaders. They also want to effectively train priests after identifying their areas of weakness acquired by tracking information from well-known dating and hookup applications between 2018 and 2021. The data that the group purchased reportedly includes data about users of the dating apps Growlr, Grindr, Scruff, and Jack'd, which are mainly used by gay and bisexual men as well as OkCupid. The organization asserts that it purchased position and usage information from the apps and then compared that data with the known addresses of priests.

Moreover, the most prominent LGBTQ social network in the world, Grindr, has responded to these claims by stating that they "remain completely invalidated." The company claims it addresses the privacy and security of its approximately 12 million active users every month "very seriously" and never shares private information, including their profile, geographical location, or even "industry-standard data such as age and gender."

On Thursday, Mar. 9, Grindr spokesperson Patrick Lenihan said that these anti-LGBTQ vigilantes had outraged them with their activities and were furious about it. On behalf of the LGBTQ community, Grindr has been and will continue to exert pressure on the industry to prevent dishonest players from participating in the ecosystem of ad technology. "All that group is doing is hurting people," Lenihan added.

According to Complex, Catholic Laity and Clergy for Renewal spend four million dollars to track down priests using popular dating and hookup apps among homosexual and bisexual men and identify them.

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Effect of Mobile App Tracking Data on Church Members and LGBTQIA+ Community

A report from The Guardian stated that it is currently unknown what effect the data will have on priests. However, the information discovered through the Renewal project may reportedly cause Catholic members to be prevented from receiving advancements or being forced into early retirement.  

Following an investigation by a Catholic news website known as the Pillar, in July of 2021, Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill stepped down as secretary general of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). As mentioned, the commercially available data were used to monitor Burrill's use of homosexual hookup apps as well as his visits to gay bathhouses and bars. The former secretary general's resignation and the most recent discovery of mobile app monitoring raise alarms among LGBTQ+ activists and privacy specialists. These individuals condemn the practice as an invasion of privacy aimed at vulnerable people. 

Also, a senior fellow at Duke University, Justin Sherman, said that people don't often see how these practices are linked to a particular person or group of individuals, which makes this story powerful. Accordingly, Sherman is also an expert on matters about data privacy. In addition, the senior fellow mentioned that the country has a limited number of data privacy regulations, noting that "You can count them on one or two hands."

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