Tinder is doubtlessly the most popular dating app in the world right now. Ever since 2012, we can swipe profiles of nearby users right (‘I’m interested’) or left (‘I’m not interested’). It’s estimated that about 50 million people are using the app all over the world. The meaning of swiping left and right has even become common knowledge for many. Online dating is mostly just a lot of fun. Dating apps enable users to meet others while sitting on their living room couch. Simultaneously, however, there are several privacy risks tied to the use of these apps. It’s always wise to be aware of these.
This article isn’t meant to cause panic or keep people from using dating apps. We do, however, want to help you protect yourself as well as possible against any risks to your personal privacy. To ensure that using dating apps like Tinder remains fun, we advise you to take a couple of precautions. For example, never use your Twitter or Instagram profile picture on Tinder, be careful and wary when you plan a date, don’t share too much information about yourself, report any suspicious behavior, and use a VPN when possible.
What Are The Privacy Risks Of Using Tinder?
Your Activity Can Be Monitored
Your activity on Tinder may not be as private as you think. A report by the cybersecurity company Checkmark mentions two major vulnerabilities in Tinder iOS and Android apps. Both of these vulnerabilities concern the issue of insufficient encryption. One issue is the app doesn’t use the secure HTTPS protocol to encrypt profile pictures. In addition, different data is sent from Tinder’s servers for left and right swipes.
As a result, while text such as names and personal information is encrypted, Tinder profile pictures are not. This means that it’s possible for hackers to monitor your activity and see which profile pictures you are looking at. They can do this by intercepting the traffic between your mobile device and the Tinder servers. In addition, hackers can use the data from Tinder’s servers to determine whether you swiped right or swiped left on a picture. In order for hackers to intercept your data, they need to be on the same Wi-Fi network as you, and public networks are most vulnerable.
While it’s unlikely that a hacker intercepting your Tinder data will result in identity theft, there are still consequences to the user that might result. This is especially true in countries with negative views on dating, homosexual relationships, and intimate relationships outside of marriage.
Other Users Can Find Your Location
Unfortunately, when using Tinder your location might be visible to other users. Tinder’s location processing data happens on the client side. The location data for matched users within a 25-mile radius gets sent to the users’ devices and is extremely accurate. A security vulnerability was uncovered in July 2014 regarding the way Tinder sent latitude and longitude coordinates to users’ devices. The vulnerability meant that anyone with basic programming knowledge could find your location coordinates. It also increased users’ risk of being stalked by predators who used the Tinder app.
Tinder fixed this vulnerability by replacing the coordinates with distance measures, making it more difficult though not impossible for users to uncover your location.
Tinder Stores Your Personal 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.
Your Tinder Activity May Be Visible on Facebook
If you decide to sign up with Tinder using your Facebook account, be aware that you will need to take steps to ensure your Tinder activity isn’t visible on Facebook. When you sign up for Tinder with Facebook, the app gets full access to your Facebook profile. It then pulls data from your profile to get your pictures, location, and interests to help match you up with people in your area. The downside of this integration is that you might accidentally reveal that you are using Tinder to all your Facebook friends. There’s also the risk that someone you met on Tinder will find you on Facebook and contact you there. If you sign up with Facebook, you will need to adjust your privacy settings to avoid this. Another option is to sign up for Tinder using your cell phone number.
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 the different dangers that lurk on Tinder. This doesn’t mean that the app itself is dangerous, but that people abuse the existing social network that Tinder has to offer.
The ‘Tinder Stalking Guide’
On 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 could need, are your Tinder profile picture and your name. Via 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 crime
Grindr has appeared in the news quite frequently because criminals used the app to commit crimes against members of the LGBT community. Some news sites have entire collections of news articles about Tinder dates gone wrong in the worst way. In 2017, the 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. Such 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.
It’s not just physical violence that can turn an initial Tinder match into a nightmare. Online blackmail occurs at the regular as well. Two years ago, a 20 year old boy in The Netherlands ended his life after he was tricked and blackmailed on Tinder. A man on there pretended to be a woman and exchanged nude pictures and videos with the victim. After this initial catfishing, the man behind the fake profile turned himself against the boy and forced him to pay up if he didn’t want the material to be sent to all his friends and family. In a panic, the boy committed suicide.
Sadly, cases of blackmailing such as this happen quite often on Tinder. Because this kind of crime doesn’t need a real life meeting, cyber criminals can easily pose as someone else. A man can look up a couple of pictures on Google and think up a female Tinder profile to target heterosexual men. This way, you never know who you’re dealing with.
How can you Protect your Privacy 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.
Adjust Your Facebook Privacy Settings
Whether or not you opt to use a burner Facebook account, it’s important to adjust your Facebook privacy settings. The goal is to keep your Tinder matches on the online app and prevent them from contacting you over Facebook. The best way to do this is to go to your Facebook Privacy tab and change your settings to the following:
- Who can see your future posts? > Only Me
- Who can see your friends list > Only Me
- Who can send you a friend request? > Friends of Friends
- Who can look you up by your email? > Friends
- Who can look you up by your phone number > Friends
- Allow search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile > Uncheck the box
The next step is to click on the Tagging and Timeline tab in your Facebook settings. Change these options to the following:
- Who can post on your Timeline? > Only Me
- Who can see tagged posts on your Timeline? > Only Me
- Who can see what others post on your Timeline? > Only Me
- When you’re tagged in a post, who do you want to add to the audience? > Only Me
- Tag suggestions > No One
Taking these steps can help ensure that your Facebook profile won’t be visible to strangers.
Hide Your Tinder App From Facebook
Since Facebook allows integrations with many services including Tinder, you will need to take steps to hide your Tinder app from Facebook. If you want to conceal the fact that you are on Tinder from your Facebook friends, you need to go to your Facebook privacy settings and select “See more settings.” From here you need to choose Apps, locate your Tinder app, and press the “Edit” option at the right of the app. Navigate to Visibility of Apps and Posts and select the “Only Me” option. This means that only you will be able to see your Tinder access.
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 vunerable to man in the middle attacks. To make sure your dating data doesn’t get into the wrong hands you can use a VPN. 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 LGBT Community: use Traveler Alert
Recently Tinder made an update that can help to protect any LGBT members using the app. With the Traveler Alert function, the app now warns you whenever you enter a land or area which has laws against LGBT 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. Since some governments punish LGBT contact and relationships by law, and dating apps are sometimes used to track LGBT people, the new update is a very necessary and important one.
Report Suspicious Behavior
Tinder is constantly trying to remove fake profiles, ciminals, and bots from their app. You can help them by reporting any suspicous behavior. 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 behaviour that violates Tinder’s terms:
- Users that ask for money or a donation
- Users that ask for pictures
- Under-aged kids that use the app
- Users that harass others
- Users that act inappropriate after a meeting
- Fake profiles/catfishing
- Spam, attempts to sell products to users
If you encouter any of the things mentioned above, you can contact Tinder directly. You can also block users that harass you. This way, it is impossible for them to contact you through the app.
While Tinder and other dating apps are extremely popular, these apps also pose a risk to your privacy. Vulnerabilities in the Tinder app can result in hackers to spying on your activity, or other Tinder users figuring out your location. In addition, Tinder collects your personal data, and the app’s 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.