Earlier today Judith Duportail of The Guardian released this article explaining how she received 800 pages of data collected on her by the dating app Tinder. As Olivier Keyes, a data scientist at the University of Washington states, “I am horrified but absolutely not surprised by this amount of data…Every app you use regularly on your phone owns the same [kind of information]. Facebook has thousands of pages about you!”
Judith goes over that within these 800 pages Tinder had information containing her Facebook “likes”, photos from a deleted Instagram account, her education, age range of men she was interested in, how many times she had connected with a potential match, all of her conversations with her matches, and much more.
The logical question that should arise is, why does Tinder care to save this information? Well the answer is the ability to sell this information to advertisers. Ever wonder how Facebook has the ability to target ads so well? It is due to the fact that they, and many other advertising platforms, congregate this information for advertisers.
When I first began using Facebook ads, I was shocked at just how targeted I was able to get. I could target not only based on age, profession, and past likes, but based off of recent purchases, household buying patterns, religion, yearly income, education, type of phone being used, political causes, even when your auto insurance is set to expire.
The idea that advertisers are targeting their marketing so that I only see products I care about is not something that is concerning, it is the fact that this personal information is being collected and has the potential to be hacked by nefarious actors. Once information is available on the internet, it is accessible if the person or group is knowledgeable and persistent enough.
This immense amount of data is collected from a wide array of sources, but one area you may not even realize is via apps that you have downloaded on your device. Back in 2014 there were concerns raised about flashlight apps that require access to parts of your phone that should never be needed to just activate a light. The thing most people fail to realize is that there are many apps that do this same thing. Right after downloading the new free game you wanted to play, you will be required to allow the app access to functions or data from other apps. Most individuals just click yes quickly so that they can start playing – but this is where some of this data is collected.
As Judith explains about her Tinder account, “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. AJuly 2017 studyrevealed Tinder users are excessively willing to disclose information without realising it… 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.”
The next concern is the government access to all of this personal data. As explored by the Snowden leaks, the government has access to Facebook, Apple, and other company’s servers. With Facebook collecting all the data they can about you from anyone they can buy it from, this means the government also has access to all of this information. Apple’s face ID has real concerns in this regard, since it means that 30,000 points of your face for facial recognition can now be accessed by the government, creating a potential for a scary dystopian future in which you are IDed everywhere you go based off of security cameras.
While this is obviously not a concern that it will happen tomorrow, the more our technology grows, the more public we get on the internet, the more companies collect our personal data – the more our government, or any government, will want access. We cannot predict what the leaders of 10 years from now will want to do with this information.
]If just one app, Tinder, was able to generate 800 pages of personal information on one individual, we can only imagine how much data on us is floating out there. Credit checks, grocery shopping habbits, dating preferences, buying patterns, internet usage, GPS location, phone records, texts, and much much more is out there, ready to be accessed by those individuals and groups wishing to do you harm. While there is only so much you can do to prevent this, any opportunity you have to limit this troth of information on you should be taken. Download a different game or flashlight if they demand access to your photos and contacts, and maybe try your local bar next time where your embarrassing pickup attempts aren’t saved forever online.