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How to manage your privacy on Tinder

Last edited: June 5, 2020
Reading time: 11 minutes, 31 seconds

Tinder logoTinder is without a doubt the most popular dating app in the world. Ever since 2012, we can swipe profiles of nearby users to the right (‘I’m interested’) or to the left (‘I’m not interested’). It’s estimated the app has about 50 million active users.

Online dating is mostly just a lot of fun. Dating apps enable users to meet others from the comfort of their home and any other place. However, there are several privacy risks tied to the use of these apps and Tinder specifically. It’s always wise to be aware of these.

This article isn’t meant to cause panic or keep people from using Tinder. We do, however, want to help you to protect yourself as well as you possible can against any risks to your personal privacy and safety. To ensure that using dating apps like Tinder remains fun, safe, and private, we will tell you all about Tinder’s safety and privacy risks and precautions to guarantee your privacy and safety in this article.

What are the privacy risks of using Tinder?

This section addresses privacy risks associated with Tinder.

Many Tinder accounts are connected to other social media

On Tinder’s website you’ll almost immediately get to see a button saying “Login with Facebook”. Many will press this button, often because signing up with Tinder through Facebook is viewed as easy and convenient. However, this option doesn’t mix with the desire many will have to keep their love live and Facebook live separate.

When you log in with Facebook, Tinder can automatically access certain parts of your Facebook profile: your name, profile picture, date of birth, all of your Facebook photos, pages liked by you and your email address.

Obviously, it’s not exactly soothing to know that an app that you only use to land dates with people you don’t know well (yet), has access to all of this personal information. Nowadays you can also login on Tinder with your Google account. However, this of course poses similar risks. The safest and most private way to sign up for Tinder is probably using your mobile phone number, because this way requires the least amount of personal details.

Something else you’ll see a lot on Tinder nowadays is people who’ve connected their Tinder to their Instagram. As a result, you’ll see their Instagram pictures at the bottom of their profile. From a privacy perspective, this is not a great idea. For starters – since Tinder has a huge user base – this means tons of people you don’t know can and will see your Instagram pictures.

Some of you might wonder why the above is a problem. Well, people you’ve never met or heard of can use the Instagram pictures on your Tinder account to do a Google reverse image search. As such, they can actually find your Instagram profile and might, for instance, cyber stalk you.

The above obviously also goes for other social media accounts: If you use (profile) pictures from other social media accounts on Tinder, Tinder users that you don’t even know can easily discover these other accounts. Of course, this doesn’t just apply to pictures. This can just as well happen with information in your bio for instance, such as the combination of your name and your job or the gym you go to.

Tinder stores your personal data

Tinder’s privacy policy states that your data may be used for advertising purposes. It goes on to say that “you should not expect your that your personal information, chats, and communications will always remain secure.” In practice, this can translate to hundreds of pages of data.

In 2017, French journalist Judith Deportail requested that Tinder release her personal data and was shocked when Tinder sent her 800 pages of her personal information.

Deportail’s case is not unusual since Tinder has vast amounts of data on all its users. The types of information Tinder acquires includes your location, Facebook likes, links to Instagram photos (even if the account has been deleted), Tinder conversations with matches, and how many Facebook friends you have.

It’s important to remember that when you are chatting with someone over Tinder, you are disclosing your information to the app in addition to the person you are talking with.

Tinder and hackers can view and control what you see and do

A third risk related to Tinder-usage relates to the high degree of control Tinder has over the profiles you get to see. This too relates to the user data they have on you. Tinder doesn’t just show you all of the profiles that are closest to you; that’s not the only determining factor. Instead, Tinder’s algorithm remembers your preferences and shows you profiles based on these preferences.

The above likely gives you a better Tinder experience without you even knowing it. However, this also poses certain risks. Research by Checkmarx from 2018 claims that cyber criminals might be able to get insights into your “Tinder behavior”. When they’re on the same network you’re on, they’re claimed to have access to information about which profiles you get to see and your “swipe pattern”.

Furthermore, hackers are even said to be able to manipulate Tinder: it’s claimed they’re able to manipulate which profiles you get to see.

“Tinder dangers” in daily life

Tinder is and remains an online dating service. This means that, regardless of how you use the app, you’ll come into contact with strangers. You’ll likely know absolutely nothing about these strangers, so there’s always a possibility that you’re being catfished. While this may sound scary, it isn’t completely unexpected.

Still, we want to inform you about other different dangers that lurk on Tinder as well. This doesn’t mean that the app itself is dangerous, but that people abuse the existing social network that Tinder has to offer. To prevent you from becoming a victim of these people, we’ll list some of Tinder’s safety risks in this section.

The ‘Tinder Stalking Guide’

stalker in bushesOn multiple fora and websites, people are talking about the ‘Tinder Stalking Guide’. This was an online guide that told you exactly how you could find out as much information as possible about your Tinder match.

Within minutes one could find personal information about over 40% of Tinder profiles by tracing down, for example, their Twitter, Instagram or Facebook accounts.

This guide appears to have disappeared from the internet, or at least from the surface web, but even so it’s often very easy for strangers to find information about you. The only things they often need, are your Tinder profile picture and your name.

With Google, they could use a reverse image search to get to your other social media channels. Do you mention the city you live in, your job, or your favorite restaurant there? Then anyone with bad intentions can use this information to stalk or blackmail you.

Some users might want to get to know a bit more about you before you start dating. In such a case you have to ask yourself whether it’s a good thing they’re able to learn all sorts of things about your private life without your permission, simply by Googling.

Tinder and (violent) crime

Some news sites have entire collections of news articles about Tinder dates gone wrong in the worst way. In 2017, American Sydney Loofe was killed by her Tinder date. A year prior to that the bones of a woman were find in Mexico City. That was all that was left after the man she’d met on Tinder dumped her body in hydrochloric acid.

There are countless other examples of people who became the victim of murder or abuse through Tinder. Both men and women run this risk. In almost all cases a meeting in real life after an initial encounter on Tinder went extremely awry.

These sorts of crimes are hard to prevent for Tinder, since none of them actually occur on the app itself. That’s why it’s extremely important to be cautious when you decide to meet up with someone. You can however help reduce the chance of this happening by alerting Tinder when you notice something suspicious (more on this later).

Privacy issues surrounding “Tinder Passport”

Tinder Passport is a relatively new feature offered by Tinder to Tinder Plus and Tinder Gold (paid version) users. The option lets you change your location to pretty much any city on this globe. This allows you to swipe on profiles in an area where you are not physically located, for instance in advance before a holiday.

This feature does pose some privacy risks, however. Imagine you’re on a business trip abroad and your partner is using Tinder passport to check on you. Your partner could, for instance, use Tinder Passport to check if you’re active on Tinder while abroad. In theory your partner could even create a fake Tinder profile to “test” your loyalty.

Regardless of the moral implications of someone actually cheating on their partner, to many it won’t exactly be a soothing thought that Tinder can be used to infringe on their privacy while abroad or out of town, even if it’s by their partner.

How can you protect your privacy and safety on Tinder?

Given all the possible breaches of privacy that can occur with Tinder, what can you do to protect your privacy? There are a variety of steps you can take to help conceal your location and identity on Tinder. Here are some of the most important ones:

Be Careful What You Share Online

It’s important to consider the consequences before posting anything online or in dating apps. Even if you don’t provide your full name or contact information, other users can still identify you by other means. For example, someone on Tinder could do a reverse image search to see if your picture appears anywhere else online.

If you used Facebook to sign up for Tinder, someone easily could find your Facebook profile since Tinder pulls your profile picture from Facebook. To help protect your privacy, you should use a different picture for Tinder that doesn’t exist elsewhere on the internet.

You should also avoid putting the name of your workplace or school on Facebook. In addition, avoid putting links to Instagram or your social media handles on your Tinder profile.

Use a burner Facebook account for Tinder

A popular way to keep your Tinder and Facebook profiles separate is to create an extra Facebook account that you only use for Tinder. This way you can use your burner Facebook account to access Tinder while having more control over your privacy.

When signing up, use a temporary email address and use a nickname for your burner Facebook account. It’s also good to upload a few photos of yourself that don’t exist elsewhere online. By taking these precautions, you can to make it more difficult for someone you just met on Tinder to find you online.

This might be a good way for some to benefit from the ease and convenience of logging in with Facebook, but still protect your privacy.

Use a VPN

Many dating apps aren’t careful enough with your data. They use unsafe connections, like the HTTP protocol, to upload pictures. This makes them very vulnerable to man in the middle attacks. To make sure your dating data doesn’t get into the wrong hands you can use a VPN.

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A VPN creates an encrypted connection between you and the server. This way others can’t see your IP address and won’t know what you do on apps like Tinder. A VPN can help to keep your personal data personal.

For the LGBTQ+ Community: use Traveler Alert

Last year Tinder released an update that can help to protect any LGBTQ+ members using the app. With the Traveler Alert function, the app now warns you whenever you enter a country or area which has laws against LGBTQ+ people.

Whenever you’re travelling in such a country, Tinder will send you a notification. If you’re showing your sexual preference in your profile, this will automatically become invisible until you leave said area.

Aside from that, you can deactivate the ‘Show me on Tinder’ option in the settings of the app for extra security. If you do this, your profile will no longer be visible to anyone.

Report suspicious behavior

Tinder is constantly trying to remove fake profiles, criminals and bots from their app. You can help them by reporting any suspicious behavior you encounter. If you report a suspicious account, the Tinder team can investigate and remove that account. This can make you and other users safer.

Here are some examples of behavior that violates Tinder’s terms:

  • Users that ask for money or a donation
  • Users that ask for pictures
  • Minors using the app
  • Users that harass others
  • Users that act inappropriate during a meeting
  • Fake profiles/catfishing
  • Spam, attempts to sell products to users

If you encounter any of the above, you can contact Tinder directly. You can also block users that harass you (by selecting “unmatch”). This way, it is impossible for them to contact you through the app.

Final Thoughts

While Tinder and other dating apps are extremely popular, these apps also pose a risk to your privacy and safety.

Vulnerabilities in the Tinder app can result in hackers spying on your activity, or other Tinder users figuring out your location.

In addition, Tinder collects your personal data, and the app’s frequent integration with Facebook can also result in a breach of your privacy. These are considerations that every Tinder user should know about. Although Tinder can access your data, by taking precautions you can protect your privacy to a certain extent when using the dating app.

How to manage your privacy on Tinder: frequently asked questions

If you have a question about staying safe and protecting your privacy on Tinder, have a look at our FAQ down below!

Tinder is, provided you take a few safety precautions, generally safe to use. However, there are certain risks to be aware of, such as people finding your other social media accounts, the threat of (cyber)stalking and your partner or others checking on you while you’re abroad. If you want to learn all about these risks and how to mitigate them, check out our article about staying safe on Tinder.

Unfortunately there’s no way to guarantee your privacy 100% on Tinder. The app keeps an incredible amount of data on all of its users. It may, according to its privacy policy, use this information for all sorts of purposes, from advertising to improving the app. Also, Tinder may share your information with other companies in its “Match Group businesses” network, consisting of at least 10 large companies.

This might seem a bit grim, privacy-wise. Fortunately however, there are things you can do to improve your privacy on Tinder. Read all about these precautions in our article about protecting your privacy on Tinder.

There are a few things you can do to protect your privacy on Tinder, such as using pictures on Tinder that aren’t on any of your other social media, being careful about what you share and using a VPN. To protect your and other users’ safety you can report suspicious accounts and behavior directly to Tinder. Also, if you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community, don’t forget to use “Travel Alert”. For more tips, read this article.

Tech journalist
Tove has been working for VPNoverview since 2017 as a journalist covering cybersecurity and privacy developments. Since 2019 she is VPNoverview.com's cybersecurity news coordinator.

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