Is the Popular Grindr Hookup App Making Users Vulnerable?

Smartphone and gavel depicting Grindr Hookup App

Flint-area citizens are still recoiling from the newly-released details of a grisly murder that took place right around Christmas 2019. Kevin Bacon – a 25-year-old hairstylist from Swartz Creek, Michigan – was last seen on Christmas Eve. Then he connected with the man who would become his killer on a popular dating app called Grindr.

Four days later, police discovered Bacon’s body in the home of Mark Latunski in Bennington Township.

Mr. Latunski has been arraigned and is being held without bond after admitting the gruesome details of his crime.

According to accounts, Latunski is well known to police. As recently as November 25, 2019, police were called to his residence after a report that a man wearing only a leather kilt was seen running from the house with blood on his face.

The man declined to press charges. Latunski was also charged in 2013 with custodial kidnapping but had those charges dismissed after several competency hearings.

At this time, Latunski is undergoing psychiatric evaluation before he is found competent to proceed further. In court, he was insisting his name was Edgar Thomas Hill and that Mark Latunski was his nephew.

This information does lead one to wonder if Mr. Bacon’s murder could have been prevented if Mr. Latunski’s crimes and mental illness had been taken more seriously by the state.

How Does Grindr Play a Role?

In a twist that I’m sure this company dislikes, Bacon and Latunski connected via Grindr.

Grindr is a hookup app for gay men. What makes it potentially dangerous is also its selling feature. Grindr helps men meet other men who are geographically close by using their cell phone’s location services.

Although it promises to keep you anonymous unless you choose to disclose your location, savvy users of the app can use “trilateration” to locate you if you stay in the same place.

If three users working in tandem or one user moving around can find your relative distance from each of the three points, they can pinpoint your location reasonably accurately.

The Egyptian government found and imprisoned a man named Andrew Medhat for “public debauchery” using this method.

Although Grindr does warn of this security problem in its user agreement, the language about the problem is buried in the midst of other dense legalese.

Grindr and Violence

This method wasn’t necessary for Mark Latunski. All he needed was the app’s built-in anonymity to do his dirty work.

Of course, we can’t know if he intended to kill Mr. Bacon when they connected via the app. However, his past behavior does seem to indicate he was escalating, and that’s something Mr. Bacon couldn’t have known.

Grindr use has been linked to coordinated attacks against gay men in the Netherlands and Texas. The app also became famous after being used by a serial killer in the United Kingdom to lure men to their deaths.

Conclusion

Is it possible for apps like Grindr to keep their users safe?

Not likely.

A simple background check could have warned Mr. Bacon about Latunski, but that is not a feature of this type of app.

Maybe warnings about possible abuses should be made more explicit to the app’s users rather than hidden in a lengthy legal document no one will read.

Hopefully, Mr. Bacon’s tragic story will inspire other men to use the app safely.

What do you think? How can the law keep up with the many uses and abuses of all this emerging technology?