The Data Tinder Collects, Saves, and Uses

Under European law, service providers like Tinder are required to show users what information they have on them when requested. This author requested, and this is what she received:

Some 800 pages came back containing information such as my Facebook "likes," my photos from Instagram (even after I deleted the associated account), my education, the age-rank of men I was interested in, how many times I connected, when and where every online conversation with every single one of my matches happened...the list goes on.

"I am horrified but absolutely not surprised by this amount of data," said Olivier Keyes, a data scientist at the University of Washington. "Every app you use regularly on your phone owns the same [kinds of information]. Facebook has thousands of pages about you!"

As I flicked through page after page of my data I felt guilty. 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. But I quickly realised I wasn't the only one. A July 2017 study revealed Tinder users are excessively willing to disclose information without realising it.

"You are lured into giving away all this information," says Luke Stark, a digital technology sociologist at Dartmouth University. "Apps such as Tinder are taking advantage of a simple emotional phenomenon; we can't feel data. This is why seeing everything printed strikes you. We are physical creatures. We need materiality."

Reading through the 1,700 Tinder messages I've sent since 2013, I took a trip into my hopes, fears, sexual preferences and deepest secrets. Tinder knows me so well. It knows the real, inglorious version of me who copy-pasted the same joke to match 567, 568, and 569; who exchanged compulsively with 16 different people simultaneously one New Year's Day, and then ghosted 16 of them.

"What you are describing is called secondary implicit disclosed information," explains Alessandro Acquisti, professor of information technology at Carnegie Mellon University. "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."

Tinder's privacy policy clearly states your data may be used to deliver "targeted advertising."

It's not Tinder. Surveillance is the business model of the Internet. Everyone does this.

Posted on September 26, 2017 at 7:57 AM • 40 Comments

Comments

D. V.September 26, 2017 10:12 AM

I don't know why but this shocks me more than anything else I've read so far about big data. I feel... nauseous.

DavidSeptember 26, 2017 10:17 AM

None of that is surprising. Most of it is perfectly reasonable in order to operate the service. What really matters is the 'devil in the detail' of what data they disclose to third parties and for what purposes.

DanielSeptember 26, 2017 11:48 AM

@Bruce writes, "Surveillance is the business model of the Internet."

This was once true but it is now too narrow of a statement. Surveillance is now the business model of life itself. One doesn't even need to own a smart phone to be tracked. For example, a person who owns a modern Android phones collects data on behalf of Google from all wifi connections within the range of the phone.

So if a friend arrives at my house with their phone and with geolocation on Google can determine the MAC addresses of all the devices turned on in my home, even if I am doing nothing more than using SSH via wifi to program my Raspberry Pi. The internet doesn't need to be involved.

ex-gruSeptember 26, 2017 2:04 PM

It is a very bad model. Practically, anti-capitalist in a sense. Many of this startups doesn't even have revenue, just capturing user's data. Stock market was reimagened and reingeneered to make them sustainable. Maybe this model is inherited from early days when military and intelligence were funding research in data mining and mass collection (i.e. MDDS program).

Jesse ThompsonSeptember 26, 2017 4:09 PM

@ex-gru All this tells me is that we're entering into an economy where the release of information is beginning to challenge traditional currency much more effectively than any cryptocurrency does.

Billions of people (yes, 10^9 and above these days) are purchasing services and experiences in exchange for disclosing data about themselves and about their environment (which includes some data about others as well). This data sustainably pays for these services both via reselling and via these services being easier to provide with the data than without.

Primary among these services are making decisions for a user so that they don't have to make those decisions themselves. Who to friend/follow, who to date, where to turn while driving, where to eat lunch. Even advertising itself boils down to helping a person with their purchasing decisions when done right, or pissing people off so that they get adblockers when done wrong.

And while I can appreciate the allure of pretending that we are superior to people who make these trade-offs, it's ultimately not fair to expect the human brain to get very much done when it has to make every decision manually. That would be on par with expecting a man to walk very far without a vehicle. He can walk, yes.. but people who undergo tradeoffs to ride a horse, a bicycle, a car, fly in a plane or rocket to another world can go places within timeframes that the lonely walker could scarcely even begin to dream of.

Obviously, there is a lot of potential for abuse and for loss of control when you give away too much data about yourself. But I am no longer even pretending to cleave to the luddite abstinence position on this one. You can no longer choose to engage in society without some of your data being leaked via other people's smartphones, and that's no different to saying that you can no longer walk through a city without having to cross streets and take on the narrow potential of being hit by a car.

So my new position is that yes, there will be damage, but statistics teach me that this damage is very likely to impact the wealthy and lead to self-regulation with knock-on positive benefits for me and for my privacy than for the world to actually approximate 1984. Even Kim Jong Il would never keep his empire alive without a healthy rest-of-the-world to leach off of, both financially and culturally with his obsession with Dennis Rodman and movies and video games. The rich literally can't afford to have half of their nice things (like their own smartphones) without mass producing them so that the common man picks up a lion's share of that tab and imbues their network effects, so that means that *my* smartphone can't be either too convenient (for me to resist using) or too insecure without a wealthy person feeling either jealous (for not having it) or attacked (for having something insecure).

TatütataSeptember 26, 2017 4:24 PM

One doesn't even need to own a smart phone to be tracked. For example, a person who owns a modern Android phones collects data on behalf of Google from all wifi connections within the range of the phone.

I freaked out a few days ago when I checked the opening times of a store nearby. I entered the name of the store in that d*mned search engine, and was offered as a bonus a plot of how busy the store allegedly is. Could only have been generated from visitor's "smart" phone data. Creepy. That means that they also see where else you went, and also whether that tinder date actually "worked out"...

Sancho_PSeptember 26, 2017 5:21 PM

”Surveillance is the business model of the Internet.” (@Bruce Schneier)

I’d really love to understand the deeper sense behind this statement which can be read all over the place in different flavors, e.g. “data” instead of “surveillance”.
If true this would be the perfect perpetuum mobile.
There are billions of people on our planet without any data access (and money), but I could deliver even more personal data in seconds, a never ending stream.
Only there will be no business, it’s worthless, only wasting time and money.

No. This statement is there to sell us surveillance.
I don’t know the real purpose, but it’s not business.
It may well end in a Centralized Social Behavior Control ID: (CSBC-ID)
http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/05/24/chinese-citizens-want-the-government-to-rank-them/
(mind the “the citizens want … to rank them”)

Convenient doomSeptember 26, 2017 6:36 PM

Death by consumerism. You knew it would come to this didn't you? You ought to have.

Deborah C. Peel, MDSeptember 26, 2017 8:03 PM

People are not stupid. In the US, we've NEVER been given meaningful choices. Our universal human and civil rights to privacy, ie, to control of pii, were NEVER built into the Internet or giant technology corporations. This destructive technology was put into place before the public realized it. AND the massive collection and sale of our pii was hidden. We still have NO WAY to find out what data are being collected by what businesses and govt. (The US has 1.2M health data brokers---can you name one?)

But the chickens are coming home to roost--the US public now distrusts the US tech giants that pioneered surveillance capitalism (ie, selling YOU & everything from everywhere about you). The UN appointed a Special Rapporteur for the right to privacy because surveillance technologies support tyrants and destroy democracies. His job is to build a global consensus for technologies & an Internet that protects people, not harms them. And the EU's tough new data protection regs (GDPR) will help a great deal in the US.

This global privacy disaster can be fixed---the problem is not technology, but BAD technology and a very bad business model: surveillance capitalism.

Tech solutions can enable both privacy & Big Data research---there REALLY are solutions. One example is the New Deal on Data, see: http://civics.com/NewDealOnData/

Deborah C. Peel, MD Founder and President of Patient Privacy Rights

AugustusSeptember 26, 2017 8:33 PM

It's not Tinder.
Yes, it is. When did "but everyone else is doing it" become a valid excuse? If we give them a pass for bad behavior because others are behaving badly, it becomes a race to the bottom.

AnuraSeptember 26, 2017 9:36 PM

At the very least, I think organizations should all have to disclose what personal information they store, what they use it for, what they share, and who they share it with. Bring it all out into the light so we can make better decisions about what we share.

JonKnowsNothingSeptember 26, 2017 10:30 PM

@Anura

At the very least, I think organizations should all have to disclose what personal information they store, what they use it for, what they share, and who they share it with. Bring it all out into the light so we can make better decisions about what we share.

So... to be clear here.

  • You already know what is being shared.
  • You already know how its being shared.
  • You already have been bought and sold many times over

This you know very well.

BUT

We still continue to Use, Download, LIKE, Promote, Gram-it, Grab-it, Gig-it and generally pretend that

I HAVE NOTHING TO HIDE.

If fact you cannot hide. MrZ-FB was correct: PRIVACY is DEAD.

Privacy can be regained but are YOU willing to S T O P?

So far No One is truly willing or able to S T O P.

In the USA it takes ONE change to the law. To make it stick against future revocations it would have to be promoted to Constitutional Amendment. It would only work inside the USA. Everyone else in the World Wide Surveillance Market would be able to continue unabated.

Law:

All data pertaining to a person regardless of how generated belongs solely and forever to that person. No use of any data pertaining to a person maybe used without direct permission and compensation.
def: a person must be a biological entity.

I'm sure the legal folks could fix it up some, given that many folks in charge of "such words" tend to redefine them at will.

I don't think it will happen any time soon but perhaps soonerish.

It is after all a World Wide WEB ... Its just not the kind of WEB we thought we were getting.

Now we are caught and being sucked dry.

AnuraSeptember 26, 2017 11:36 PM

@JonKnowsNothing

Like I said, that's the very least. What I really want, I've stated before and don't want to go into to many details because politics, but essentially I feel that anything other than consumers having direct control over the organizations they personally do business with, and thus their data, is insufficient.

I'm pretty sure US corporations are colluding to overwhelm us with exploitation fatigue, and it appears to be working.

DroneSeptember 27, 2017 1:04 AM

I guaranty the person who was sooo shocked to find out about what Tinder knew about her - will keep using Tinder anyway. And why not? The damage is done, what more can Tinder learn? Plus, Tinder gets her laid.

JonKnowsNothingSeptember 27, 2017 1:30 AM

@ Drone

I guaranty the person who was sooo shocked to find out about what Tinder knew about her - will keep using Tinder anyway. And why not? The damage is done, what more can Tinder learn? Plus, Tinder gets her laid.

And I guarantee - it is no longer about the ones targeted... it's about yous-toos fished up in the Net.

JonKnowsNothingSeptember 27, 2017 1:58 AM

@ Anura

Like I said, that's the very least. What I really want, I've stated before and don't want to go into to many details because politics, but essentially I feel that anything other than consumers having direct control over the organizations they personally do business with , and thus their data, is insufficient.
I'm pretty sure US corporations are colluding to overwhelm us with exploitation fatigue, and it appears to be working.

Consumers already have direct control.

They choose to use to Use, Download, LIKE, Promote, Gram-it, Grab-it, Gig-it. There are dozens of disclosures called ToS and EULAs that describe what gets used - which is everything - including and not limited by the NSA/CIA/FBI and FISA definitions of "relevant".

That no one reads the EULAs and TOS doesn't matter as the courts have found that signing up is a binding contract. Rather like The Goblet of Fire - magical and unbreakable.

The direct control is: DO NOT USE THE SERVICE.

  • Consumers want to use a Gig-It app because they cannot be bothered to go buy that much in demand avocado toast in person.
  • Consumers want to share the intimacies of their private lives from birth to death and bequeath every moment in perpetuity to the Cloud-Holders.
  • Consumers want those ever expanding listening consoles because it will talk to them and is programmed to pretend to like them.
  • Yes, Dave. I'm here.... I'm listening....

What we do not have are viable alternatives that are not subject to the same influences that built what we have today. Localized solutions won't alter this by much.

tyrSeptember 27, 2017 2:44 AM


@Sancho_P

What I found very interesting was that the
Chinese were not the instigators behind
the Dangan citizen file. John Dewey went
there in the 1920's and sold their government
the idea. He was part of the worldwide loon
band who have been molding citizenry for
their own good for generations. No one
should be surprised that the current bunch
has come out of the school system interchangeable
parts of the consumerist system. We live in
a virtual reality insulated by training and
used to things that would have gotten people
hung or tarred and feathered in the past.

I find it mind boggling that what passes for
adults think that snooping on and documenting
all of this crap is a business model. Maybe
that's why SSRI's are the most prescribed drugs.
Maybe that's why the DSM lists everything as
a medical condition of insanity, we're all nuts
to allow this level of stupidity to run society.

reply to AugustusSeptember 27, 2017 4:06 AM

>> It's not Tinder.

> Yes, it is. When did "but everyone else is doing it" become a valid excuse?

I agree, certainly Tinder is responsible for Tinder doing this.

I supposed that Bruce perhaps merely expressed himself unclearly and that the intended meaning was:

It's not ONLY Tinder.

I.e. not excusing Tinder, but just remarking that this bad behavior is everywhere, and that this is not some extreme isolated case.

WayneSeptember 27, 2017 5:33 AM

@Tatütata

I freaked out a few days ago when I checked the opening times of a store nearby. I entered the name of the store in that d*mned search engine, and was offered as a bonus a plot of how busy the store allegedly is. Could only have been generated from visitor's "smart" phone data. Creepy. That means that they also see where else you went, and also whether that tinder date actually "worked out"...
Store busy levels can be derived from from till transaction rates as well as from phone tracking. But Bluetooth tracking is everywhere. It's used for road traffic monitoring, to track movements on foot around cities and in shopping malls, etc. It uses the MAC address of any Bluetooth device: phone, car hands-free kit, sat-nav, laptop, Fitbit gadget, etc. Tracking systems are operated by different agencies or corporations; they can't of themselves know whose device they're tracking; but of course they exchange data with each other and with the NSA, so you can be pretty sure that your movements are collated with everything else that big data knows about you. Whether turning off Bluetooth in your phone can prevent some of this tracking, I don't know.

One TreeSeptember 27, 2017 5:45 AM

We need to find lawful, technical ways to resist mass surveillance. The government and corporations will not help us. They are collectors.

At any given time, most people won't be able or want to help. That's common, expected and should not be discouraging. They will follow the lead, some day.

Here's my meager thought for the day:

1. Change your real phone number(s) once per year.
2. Give the government and corporations old or fake numbers.
3. Ditto for email addresses.

HermanSeptember 27, 2017 7:16 AM

I use Tor whenever I can. It is technically feasible to track me anyway, but pretty unlikely that anyone would bother at this point in time. Once this stops working, there will be a new method to thwart things. 'Google Spoofing' could very well become the next big thing.

jonesSeptember 27, 2017 8:29 AM

Yeah, everybody complains and then keeps using the crap. Congress isn't going to step in, they're as complicit as the media, and they're probably all being blackmailed as we speak.

Hopefully you're praying hard that Trump doesn't decide to go all automated Stazi on you, and hit you with a little Zersetzung through QuantumServe, FoxAcid, and all the CIA behavior science research from Kubark that NSA is outsourcing to JTRIG over by GCHQ.

Seriously, the Stazi had an informant network of a quarter million; today's cryptofascists have everybody in their employ.

NameSeptember 27, 2017 2:23 PM

It must be a secret, because Ars Technica also omitted it:

Was the "800 pages" in printed (most inefficiently human-readable) form or digital (machine-readable) form?

Please understand how important this question is! Suppose the reporter wanted to sue, but had to pay a lawyer to read 800 PAGES of what amounts to a truckload of not-exactly-gripping trivia. What would that cost? I can imagine the figure approaching US$100,000 JUST for the reading part.

Let's face itSeptember 27, 2017 4:57 PM

"Congress isn't going to step in, they're as complicit as the media, and they're probably all being blackmailed as we speak."

I mean, sure some of them probably are part of a program to control 'normalcy' in the US, but to accuse all of them to be in bed en masse is just sloppy accusationism.

Also you should know that the President while he is head of the executive branch is NOT PRIVILEGE to every single bit of information contained in the defense/intel establishment. Trump is further circumscribed by suspicion than most former POTUS simply because of the multiple investigations into his actions and administration/contacts. There are secret courts, they have secret orders that are then carried out in secret with the full weight of gag orders / prison directly behind them. They are not done willy-nilly.

Right now Trump has about as much control of the intelligence agencies as he does the NFL.

Clive RobinsonSeptember 28, 2017 2:58 AM

@ Deborah C. Peel, MD,

This global privacy disaster can be fixed---the problem is not technology, but BAD technology and a very bad business model: surveillance capitalism.

A couple of things, first I'm doubtful the political model the US has had for atleast the last lifetime will change. It basically ignores the UN and other international treaties it's signed as it has the "Might is Right" attitude of sending in the "Guard Labour" "guns ablazing" if it does not get it's way. And as this shows the US Gov is bought and payed for by lobyists, who turn up with briefcases full of fully prepared legislation that just need a well greased sponser to push it through the voting process, thus into legislation.

Secondly, technology is still agnostic to use, it has no "Directing Mind". Thankfully that is unlikely to change in our life time (no matter what the Hard AI pundits claim). Look at it this way it's the blade that cuts, but it's the mind behind the hand that holds it that decides the who, when and why of the cut. It's the directing mind not the blade be they a surgeon or serial killer.

Thus you have,

    BAD people with a very bad business model, that involves corrupting the political process to achive their aims and objectives

But it's not just the encumbrant politicians the likes of Peter Thiel (Facebook / PayPal billionaire) is chasing, look into an organisation called "Cambridge Analytica" it shows that it's now the minority tipping point or "key/influencer" voters they are not just after, but actively selling to politicians, with what is in effect a blackmail tactic...

Who?September 28, 2017 5:25 AM

Tinder's privacy policy clearly states your data may be used to deliver "targeted advertising."

...and it is not so bad itself; the real problem here are other uses of data. Google does the same, they say collected information is used for targeted advertising too, and it is not so bad. The real problem is that these corporations are just data brokers. They gather information and they sell it to whatever customer is willing to pay for that product. What Google, or Tinder, does not say —and will never confess— is that this information is ready for human resources departments, governments and anyone willing to pay for it, including possibly criminal groups.

They say "don't worry, we are collecting your personal data to deliver high-quality targeted advertising." No, I do not trust them! They just do not need that large amount of sensible information about their users for targeted advertising purposes.

Clive RobinsonSeptember 28, 2017 5:46 AM

@ Who?,

They say "don't worry, we are collecting your personal data to deliver high-quality targeted advertising." No, I do not trust them!

And you should not.

Because when the talk of "targeted advertising" they do not say who to or what is being advertised.

It is only an assumption that people make that they are the one who might be advertised to... thus the Big Data Corps could actually mean "you as a product" to the "NSA / FBI / local loony sherif, et al" who is their customer...

Sometimes it pays to have squirrels in your head running around making you question everything. As the old saying has it "Bring paranoid, does not mean that they are not out to get you" any which way they can ;-)

WaelSeptember 28, 2017 6:33 AM

@Clive Robinson,

It’s the sound of me looking at the clock saying: I should get sleepy any time now... one mooooooooore minute?

Clive RobinsonSeptember 28, 2017 7:47 AM

@ Wael,

I should get sleepy any time now... one mooooooooore minute

Got yer, I get it... In lifes green pasture you have the "cattlezens" counting "sheeple" as they are fattend up for "the market". Which leaves the question as to if the politicos are the cudzue goat[1].

[1] Originaly thought to have originated from herdsmen around Cudezue --in what we now call Mozambique-- who used them to do a similar task as sheepdogs. However in the US since around the 1800s when used in a slaughter house it's more commonly called the "Judas Goat" (after judas Iscariot and his 40 pieces of silver for betraying Jesus) because it leads the other animals to their death in return for it's own life, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judas_goat

fredSeptember 28, 2017 12:38 PM

Regulation limiting data mining will never happen in the US. The political parties (law makers) lust and brag about their data analytic. They don't gather their own data, they buy it. Law enforcement wont' limit it because they use it as well.

What really scares me is the thought of Zukerberg running for President. If founder and CEO of one of the worlds largest data mining firms is guiding the direction of the US, God help us.

WilliamSeptember 29, 2017 2:24 PM

This Tinder info is at least expected. I've been following some really strange automated postings to Craigslist that have an hypnotic effect like Numbers stations and disappear whenever some big exploit hits only to resurface.

The ads are always poorly written with a forced cyber grammar similar to that attributed to the shadow brokers. Seductive generic female selfies are used and often inconsistent to the advertiser's claim. For example, a skinny white female describes herself as a big black woman. Total incongruity.

If the odd ad copy wasn't off putting enough, scroll down aways through some blank lines and there is additional text that is like a cross between numbers stations nonsense and W.S. Burrough's Naked Lunch as the voice of the ad's speaker changes from female to male with claims such as "Straight acting married seeks nancy boy... " all delivered in a very cut up manner. It's just weirdness.

No one in their right mind would respond to these ads unless they were in rut.And I imagine a lot of guys in rut send the requested face and dick pic. Do they really think women need to advertise for penis photos? Is this how Anthony Weiner was found out? I don't know.

Presently, the ads aren't being posted and this seems to follow the pattern given the number of exploits being conducted across the internet. However, I suspect they will be back. Either way, the mystery is baffling. It could just be low level crims, but despite the attempt at appearing shoddy, they seem quite organized and focused.

CarpetCatOctober 2, 2017 3:36 PM

This is fake news.

Take a moment to think about what you have read, in particular the perspective of the author. I doubt any of this even occured and indeed would not be surprised if this lady did not exist.

The articale MUST be written from the women perspecitve as opposed to a mans. Men will and do pay ANOTHER app to constantly swipe yes on each and every profile that Tinder gives to them as fast as Tinder can give it to them. ie, the personal profile is all but worthless, as the data stream is poisened.

You astute blog commentators getting the picture yet? The article MUST be writen as is, not because it is true, but because ONLY from the view of a discerning consumer, who's every yes swipe has been revealed, does then the EMOTIONAL creepy scary feelings get conveyed to the reader.

Read the article again, but this time substitute a man who IS NOT decerning with his choices. I guarentee it will evoke no emotional response within you.

tl,dr: You all got played. (and tracked, and comments logged, cross indexed, etc.)

ps. you TOO can buy this data if you so desire, even down to specifics, such as geographic area. Most of the data brokers say they won't reveal an individuals data, but will wink wink and let you narrow down greatly. You just bring some innocuous data of you acquired elsewhere, that alone wouldn't identify...

Clive RobinsonOctober 2, 2017 5:07 PM

@ CarpetCat,

This is fake news.

It maybe it may also be not.

I'm not familiar with tinder or any apps of a similar nature. Thus I'm even less familiar with any apps to work the apps.

However whilst I can see your sympathy angle, your suggestion that it's only men that might use an app to work the app is probably not true, I've had the misfortune to have seen enough women who would chase anything that breaths, so it is probable that they to would use such an app. Further I suspect that there may well be men of a more discerning nature as well.

The fact is there's to little information in any direction to be able to say what elements of the story might or might not be true false or "representational". The same applies for the whole story.

What ever it is, it is certainly designed to play on emotions rather than dull facts.

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