On Tinder? Russia may swipe right on your personal data
Russian intelligence agencies are asking Tinder, one of the most popular dating and hookup apps worldwide, to hand over user data so they can monitor citizens, purportedly in the interest of national security.
This is unquestionably scary for Russian citizens — this is a country with a long history of prosecuting gay people, for one thing, so for individuals to have their sexual preferences and habits on display at a national level is disturbing to say the least.
If the aim of Russian spy agencies is to find ways to compromise individuals for state interests, then dating data could be some of the most damning info about people out there.
WHAT DATA DOES A DATING APP COLLECT ON YOU?
Tons! You may not “super like” it, but Tinder acquires info including (but not limited to): your Facebook likes; links to your Instagram photos; your education; your age; the age range of people you’re interested in; how many Facebook friends you have; your locations; when and where every conversation happened with every single user you’ve ever messaged on the app — and those conversations in their entirety. It’s tough to access your own data, and even tougher to delete it.
NOT LIMITED TO RUSSIA
The reverberations of this can be felt internationally: it’s not just Russian citizens’ data the app could be compelled to surrender.
Tinder is one of 145 apps and sites from which Russia’s internet and censorship authorities can demand data. By Russian law, Tinder could be pressured to relinquish the private information of any of the 50 million users across the planet.
SWIPING LEFT ON PRIVACY
It remains to be seen whether Tinder will comply, but if Russia is a big enough part of Tinder’s business, there’s no reason to assume the app will uphold user privacy agreements.
This is a concern for anyone who’s ever used Tinder, not just Russian citizens or people who may want to visit the country, but anyone involved in politics or corporations; if the Russian government can find something on you, they could conceivably use it against you.
OUR OWN GOVERNMENT HAS SIMILAR POWER
Western democracies aren’t innocent of this kind of behaviour — and Canadian or U.S. authorities could use existing laws to the same ends. Our governments at home could request private info from social media sites and there would be very little that an individual could do about it.
In theory, though, accountability and due process are embedded into our laws, whereas in Russia, human rights are beside the point.
AS IF YOU NEEDED ANOTHER REASON TO DITCH THE DATING APPS…
As always, be careful about what you do and say online, because there’s no way to guarantee that private message to your match is truly private.
Here are a few steps to make dating online safer:
Only share what you need to, even in supposedly private messages
Move off the platform as soon as you’re comfortable; consider talking to your crush using a more secure method
Check the terms of service of apps you’re using, and choose apps that limit data retention. If you can delete your own data, do that too!
If you stop using an app, contact the company to have your profile removed
Lobby for better privacy protections from your government — if you don’t make it an issue, they won’t either!