Catholic priest quits after “anonymized” data revealed alleged use of Grindr
Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill was general secretary of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, effectively the highest-ranking priest in the US who is not a bishop, before records of Grindr usage obtained from data brokers was correlated with his apartment, place of work, vacation home, family members' addresses, and more. After carriers issued public mea culpas and promises to reform the practice, investigations have revealed that phone location data is still popping up in places it shouldn't. Advertisement The publication that revealed Burrill's private app usage, The Pillar, a newsletter covering the Catholic Church, did not say exactly where or how it obtained Burrill's data. It did say how it de-anonymized aggregated data to correlate Grindr app usage with a device that appears to be Burrill's phone. The Pillar says it obtained 24 months' worth of "Commercially available records of app signal data" covering portions of 2018, 2019, and 2020, which included records of Grindr usage and locations where the app was used. The de-anonymized data revealed that a mobile device that appeared at those locations-likely Burrill's phone, The Pillar says-used Grindr almost daily. One common tactic is known as "Differential privacy," where noise is injected into the data, which makes it useful for statistical purposes but frustrates efforts to connect discrete data points to individuals.