Tinder’s Data Problem – Stores Horrifying Amount of Data on Every User’s Deepest, Darkest Secrets


We all know that everything we do online is being stored by some tech company, or several of them. But exactly how much data is being collected? While Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook may be the top few names that come to mind when we think about excessive data collection, we have no clue how much is that too much data. One journalist went on an "online" journey to find out how much information Tinder was storing on her. Getting back over 800 pages of data on herself, it is mind-boggling to even think about the amount of data companies like Google must be keeping on all of us.

Tinder takes a journalist on a trip into her "hopes, fears, sexual preferences and deepest secrets"

Tinder isn't a site that you think about when you discuss that new Windows keylogging feature or Apple trying to use Differential Privacy to amass more data. It is just a place to meet new people. But, in trying to meet new people we might be sharing a lot of information without even thinking twice and revealing more about us than anywhere else.

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It is an app made on the basis of a good first impression, after all. But, are we sharing a little too much, a little too personal to make that good impression?

Judith Duportail wrote a piece in The Guardian that gives only a tiny glimpse of how much data we have in the cyberspace that is enough to clone us in some future bot-world.

"As I flicked through page after page of my data I felt guilty. I was amazed by how much information I was voluntarily disclosing: from locations, interests and jobs, to pictures, music tastes and what I liked to eat."

Imagine someone hacking into Tinder and releasing all that information... All of your messages, the type of people you prefer, the color of people you most dated, the food you like to eat, and much much more!

"Some 800 pages came back containing information such as my Facebook “likes”, my photos from Instagram (even after I deleted the associated account), my education, the age-rank of men I was interested in, how many times I connected, when and where every online conversation with every single one of my matches happened … the list goes on.

"Reading through the 1,700 Tinder messages I’ve sent since 2013, I took a trip into my hopes, fears, sexual preferences and deepest secrets."

While she was expecting to receive a lot of data, 800 pages wasn't something that she thought she had bargained for. "Tinder knows me so well," she wrote.

"It knows the real, inglorious version of me who copy-pasted the same joke to match 567, 568, and 569; who exchanged compulsively with 16 different people simultaneously one New Year’s Day, and then ghosted 16 of them."

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Europeans can demand tech companies to hand over their data

Under the EU data protection rules, European citizens can demand tech companies to hand over their data. You will need to write an email to privacyinquiries@gotinder.com, carrying a subject line of “Subject Access Request,” and mentioning the exact list of data you want.

British citizens can also demand Tinder for data access under the Data Protection Act 1998. While having this data might shock you into stopping sharing extremely personal data on the web, it wouldn't remove the already present information from cyberspace.

Why don't we feel this horror when we are "willingly" sharing this data?

According to Luke Stark, a digital technology sociologist at Dartmouth University, Duportail felt the horror not when she was sharing this information, but after receiving it from Tinder because she was looking at this data printed on a paper. "Apps such as Tinder are taking advantage of a simple emotional phenomenon; we can’t feel data," Stark wrote. "This is why seeing everything printed strikes you. We are physical creatures. We need materiality."

But what happens when the site gets breached? It isn't an impossible thought considering even the supposedly most secure, financial companies are failing to keep their systems secure against cyberattacks. What is Tinder in front of SEC, Equifax, or... Ashley Madison?

"I can almost feel the shame I would experience," Duportail candidly wrote. "The thought that, before sending me these 800 pages, someone at Tinder might have read them already makes me cringe."

But, would this be enough to force us to use the service a little differently? Share a little less data? Be more cautious about taking the private conversations offline instead? Looking at how far we have come with an online presence based on oversharing, it'd be unlikely that we would use the internet in a different way now, regardless of how many sites get breached and how much data is dumped online.

Would you now share less on Tinder, knowing that all of your chats & preferences could be out in the wild someday?