If you think online dating apps are just a bit creepy, then this latest study is about to freak you all the way out.
A straight Wired writer decided to do a little experiment with Grindr to see just how secure the app is with location data. Spoiler alert: it isn’t. At all.
The writer installed Grindr, made his profile pic a cat, then turned off the “show distance” feature. He then contacted computer security researcher Nguyen Phong Hoang in Japan and gave him his general Brooklyn neighborhood. Then, this happened:
Within fifteen minutes, Hoang had identified the intersection where I live. Ten minutes after that, he sent me a screenshot from Google Maps, showing a thin arc shape on top of my building, just a couple of yards wide. “I think this is your location?” he asked. In fact, the outline fell directly on the part of my apartment where I sat on the couch talking to him. Hoang says his Grindr-stalking method is cheap, reliable, and works with other gay dating apps like Hornet and Jack’d, too.
It turns out, Hoang and two other researchers just published their findings that they can pinpoint the location of pretty much anyone who uses these apps to within a few feet, even when they attempt to hide their location.
Why is this scary?
That added degree of invasion means that even particularly privacy-oriented gay daters—which could include anyone who perhaps hasn’t come out publicly as LGBT or who lives in a repressive, homophobic regime—can be unwittingly targeted. “You can easily pinpoint and reveal a person,” says Hoang. “In the US that’s not a problem [for some users,] but in Islamic countries or in Russia, it can be very serious that their information is leaked like that.”
The rest of the article is here, and while it’s a bit technical, it’s well worth a read if you want to understand how all of this works. As always, be careful out there using the apps.
It turns out you’re not as safe as you think.