A top official in the US Roman Catholic Church has resigned after allegations he used gay dating app Grindr..
The Roman Catholic newsletter, The Pillar, claimed that declassified data obtained by the newsletter showed visits to gay bars and the use of a dating app based on the user’s location.
Monsignor Geoffrey Borrell was the Secretary General of the American Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The American Conference of Catholic Bishops said it took the allegations seriously, but there were no accusations of misconduct with minors.
“In order to avoid becoming a source of distraction to the operations and running of the Conference, Monsignor Borrell resigned with effective immediate effect,” the statement read.
The Pillar claimed:
- Information I got from a data vendor was “commercially available”
- It analyzed it to reveal “location data and usage information for each numbered device”
- One mobile device “linked” to Monsignor Borrell and Grindr “emitted application data signals”
- The data showed visits to gay bars while Monsignor Borrell was traveling for the American Conference of Catholic Bishops.
A Grinder representative told BBC News that The Pillar’s post was “homophobic and full of baseless allusions”.
“The alleged activities listed in this blog post in a non-personally identifiable form are not verifiable from a technical point of view, and are highly unlikely to occur,” he added.
The Pillar did not respond directly to BBC questions but in a statement posted on Twitter its editor-in-chief JD Flynn wrote that the newsletter had carefully considered the balance between individual privacy and the public interest and was “confident in our deliberations”.
The Washington Post, citing an expert opinion, said the use of data in this way was not illegal in the United States and “is likely to happen more.”
And Andres Arrieta, from the digital rights group Electronic Fruitier, told the BBC that this data should not have been available.
The availability of this type of mobile app data, he added, is a symptom of “an industry that places profit over users’ privacy and personal safety”.
He referred to a report last year by the Norwegian Consumer Council that criticized the way Grindr and other apps handle sensitive mobile phone data.
“Control of Sins”
Reverend James Martin, who advocates the integration of gays into the Roman Catholic Church, expressed his concerns on Twitter about what he called a “spying” operation.
He asked if any priest or parishioner could withstand similar scrutiny in their private lives, tweeting: “Who, in the end, will remain in the church?”
And he added, “As the psalmist wrote: If, O Lord, you watch iniquities, who will stand?”
On Monday, the Catholic News Agency reported that, in 2018, it rejected an offer from a party that claimed “to have access to technology capable of identifying clergy and others downloading popular dating apps, such as Grindr and Tinder, and locating them using the Internet addresses of computers or their mobile devices.