Human beings say and do a lot of stupid things when trying to connect romantically. Before the internet, there was no record of all the idiotic pick-up lines you used or that others used on you, no permanent file of all the people you randomly dismissed as unattractive (or inexplicably found attractive at the moment). Dating sites like Tinder now have vast amounts of data on their users’ preferences, peculiarities, and peccadilloes, but are they concerned about keeping it safe?
Guardian reporter Judith Duportail wanted to get some idea of exactly what sort of information Tinder had about her use of the dating app. And since European Union data protection laws allow every EU citizen to request this data from Tinder, she did… Though she probably now wishes she hadn’t.
Under European Union data protection laws, every citizen is entitled to ask companies for access to their personal data.
So Much Information
What Duportail got from Tinder was more than 800 pages of data, including her name, Facebook likes, the age-rank of men she was interested in, the 870 matches she’d made with different people, and the 1,700 conversations she’d had with those matches.
“As I flicked through page after page of my data I felt guilty,” Duportail wrote. “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.”
The data revealed more about Duportail than she realized she’s even divulged, such as the fact that she had copy-pasted the same joke to multiple matches, or talked to several people at one time.
Security experts say unknowingly handing over these details is a result of consumers being “lured into giving away all this information” by apps, simply because consumers can’t feel data.
“This is why seeing everything printed strikes you,” Luke Stark, a digital technology sociologist at Dartmouth University, tells The Guardian. “We are physical creatures. We need materiality.”
What About Leaks?
As for the security of this information, it’s not guaranteed, Duportail writes.
But Tinder is pretty upfront of this.
“Users should also take care with how they handle and disclose their personal information and should avoid sending personal information through insecure email,” the policy continues.
Where Is All The Data Going?
All of this information could give someone a pretty clear picture of your life. But why is it necessary?
That’s the question Duportail posed, noting that she would “feel shame” if someone else read her 800 pages of information.
According to Twitter, the data is used “to personalize the experience for each of our users around the world.”
Despite this, Durportail notes that the company couldn’t provide how details on how it personalized the experience using this information.
“Our matching tools are a core part of our technology and intellectual property, and we are ultimately unable to share information about our these proprietary tools,” the spokesperson told The Guardian.
The data is also likely used for targeted advertising, providing users with ads and other products geared toward their behaviors.
It’s Not Just Tinder
Security researchers tell Duportail that Tinder isn’t the only company that is using so much personal information.
“Your personal data affects who you see first on Tinder, yes,” privacy activist Paul-Olivier Dehaye from personaldata.io tells The Guardian. “But also what job offers you have access to on LinkedIn, how much you will pay for insuring your car, which ad you will see in the tube and if you can subscribe to a loan.”
This phenomenon, he says, is part of the world’s transition into a place where data will decide “larger facets of your life.”