Protecting the data
A few thoughts on what we share onlineWhen we had to decide how to publish our findings, we started wondering how well this was going to play with Tinder and the general public. Also, and most importantly, we wanted to make sure we were not doing anything illegal. Nobody wants to be disturbed in the middle of a library by people who seek your hard drive. Or put marriages at risk because some wife just found her husband on a database somewhere on the web (hello, Ashley Madison). So we did our research and we found this statement Tinder sent to Vanity Fair:
“[S]earchable information on the Web site is public information that Tinder users have on their profiles. If you want to see who’s on Tinder we recommend saving your money and downloading the app for free.“And here is what the magazine thought about it:
“This is a classic example of a contextual privacy violation: people are okay with their Tinder information being “public” when the audience is other people looking for some loving, but perhaps not when it’s people crawling the database in a specific search intended to embarrass, out, or confront them'(…)“
Nobody here at WhereToSwipe.com wants to embarrass, confront or least of all disclose personal info of any user involved in our surveys. This is the reason why we publish percentages and general data rather than, say, all the single occurrences of a name or a list of Instagram accounts.
We believe sensitive data should be protected and Tinder does that in a rather decent way, especially after they stopped giving out Facebook details and real birth dates of users (a while ago) and the last GPS fix of matches (just recently). However, it must be noted that most users seem unaware of how much they give out:
The original Vanity Fair article was about a site that “busts” Tinder users. Let alone the technological hurdles, we were (and still are) rather confident we could do the same thing, but we chose not to, since we found it rather unethical. In fact, we soon found out that there are ways to protect yourself from this, and Tinder allows you to do just that, and much more, if you subscribe to Tinder plus. More than a million people already enjoy this, apparently. For all the penniless cheaters out there, this is for you. Be smart, at least:
It hasn’t always been like this though. Visibility has been coming and going and surely represents a real dilemma for Tinder and the users alike. The problem is akin to the WhatsApp “last seen” double edged sword, but gets another important dimension with location: indirectly, the distance carries more info than you might give it credit for – and this is unavoidable. After disastrously introducing its own “last seen” a few versions ago, Tinder backtracked, leaving the poor man’s NSA loophole in the process.
We believe Tinder first tried to stop the “busters” introducing the hide distance/age options (the first rollout of which resulted in users showing a random age, sometimes >100, basically outing them). The current implementation is perfect and effectively hides users from any outside search.
Ethics aside, we can’t help but praise Tinder for its brilliant solution. More can be made, though: it could educate its users about the information they give out, even indirectly. This, and something we discuss elsewhere.