Online dating has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially with the help of user-friendly apps like Tinder. Tons of my friends actively use Tinder, and many met their current partners through the app.
If you’ve never used Tinder, it’s basically a dating app that helps connect people. You can upload a few pictures of yourself and make a super short bio, allowing people to get a quick glimpse into your life (or at least your physical appearance). Then, your profile gets thrown into the pool of other, similar profiles.
Users can then browse through the profiles of other users, swiping left or right to state whether or not they’re interested in a specific person. If two users have swiped right on each other’s profiles, indicating that they’re both interested in one another, they can then communicate over Tinder. The upside is that users can only chat with one another if they’ve both “swiped right,” meaning that you won’t receive any unsolicited messages.
Although I’ve never used the app myself, my friends thoroughly enjoy using it and have gone on tons of successful dates with some really great people. That’s because Tinder doesn’t just suggest random people for you to match with; Tinder has tons of data on you to help “personalize” your Tinder experience.
In fact, if you have Tinder downloaded on your phone, the company could have hundreds of pages of data stored on you. Although the app is free, it turns out the true cost of using it could be your privacy.
Tinder User Discovers the App Has 800 Pages of Data on Her
In a recent article published by The Guardian, Tinder user and French journalist Judith Duportail shares her experience using the Tinder app and how she discovered that the company has collected 800 pages worth of information on her.
Since downloading the app in 2013, Duportail has used it a whopping 920 times and matched with a total of 870 different people. This might sound like a lot to you, especially if you’ve never downloaded Tinder, like myself, but think about it: How many times do you open Facebook or Instagram on your phone every day? Then, try to estimate how many times you’ve opened these apps per year?
It’s not hard to envision someone opening up Tinder, let’s say, three times per day. If you were messaging someone over it, that means that you might only be sending them three messages per day. With that logic, that means that you’ve opened the app up 1,095 times per year. This woman has only used it 920 times over the past few years, so perhaps that’s not all that much!
Under EU data protection law, Duportail requested that Tinder send her all of the information they had collected on her, and what she got back was pretty alarming. Tinder sent her 800 pages worth of data — all about her.
Some of the information listed within that data includes what she “liked” on Facebook, her Instagram posts (even if they were deleted, or the entire account was deleted), when and where every conversation she had with every single match she had on Twitter occurred, and so much more. Duportail learned that she had involuntarily disclosed the inner workings of her entire life with Tinder, from her specific locations to her interests, jobs, and photos.
Alessandro Acquisti, a professor of information technology at Carnegie Mellon University, explained:
Tinder knows much more about you when studying your behaviour on the app. It knows how often you connect and at which times; the percentage of white men, black men, Asian men you have matched; which kinds of people are interested in you; which words you use the most; how much time people spend on your picture before swiping you, and so on. Personal data is the fuel of the economy. Consumers’ data is being traded and transacted for the purpose of advertising.
Privacy activist Paul-Olivier Dehaye explained this a little further, stating:
Your personal data affects who you see first on Tinder, yes… 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. We are leaning towards a more and more opaque society, towards an even more intangible world where data collected about you will decide even larger facets of your life. Eventually, your whole existence will be affected.
This may not be surprising to many people. We live in a world where we can already book a cruise, order a pizza, or call an uber with one quick click of a button. Whenever you log onto Instagram, you probably notice that the ads displayed are clearly personalized to you, whether that be the piece of furniture you were just shopping for online or the nail salon you were just telling a friend about over the phone. Ads are already very personalized, and the digital world is progressing and growing every second.
Keep in mind that this is only one person. There are 50 million other Tinder users out there. If Tinder stores the same amount of data on everyone, that means that the app could have 40 billion pages worth of information stored on its users. That’s a lot of data for one app, and a lot of information I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t want to be made public.
You may be sitting in your couch reading this article and thinking, “What happens if someone hacks into all of this and makes it public?” Well, let’s be honest, you’re taking that risk whenever you use technology anyways, right?
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A lot of people like to think of Tinder as a hub for dating, but it’s so much more than that. When you meet someone in real life and start to date them, they’re getting to know you organically, and vice versa. You may meet in the same book store, but you could have completely different taste in books.
However, when it comes to Tinder, it’s kind of like you’re meeting in a single-genre only book store that only sells books written by the same author. You may not find romance novels next to books on conspiracy theories because their algorithms may prevent that. Tinder matches you with people based on the data they collect on you, and so there’s less room for “opposites to attract.”
When you meet someone in real life, they only notice your quirks, take note of your interests, and learn about your job and specific details of your life when you want them to. When you meet someone on Tinder, you may be tempted to make a snap judgement based on their profile, and then “creep” them a little more online instead of getting to know them in person. Plus, texting someone and getting to know them in person are two very different things.
I’m not saying that online dating is a bad thing! Some people are genuinely interested in finding romantic partners and struggle to find the right people to date in real life, and so online dating can be an excellent way for people to connect. However, it’s clear that there are some downsides to this, including invasion of privacy.
With that, remember that the next person you’re chatting with on Tinder isn’t really the only person you’re disclosing your information to. You could be starting to share your life with another person, but in doing so you’re also sharing that information with technology, and who knows where that information will eventually go.
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