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Gay Dating App Privacy Settings Are Not Protecting User Locations

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A number of popular gay dating apps are failing to protect the location of their users, despite offering them a range of location-based privacy features.

The security flaw was recently detected in an investigation by Wired reporter Andy Greenberg and Japanese computer security researcher Nguyen Phong Hoang, where they created a profile on leading app Grindr and disabled the platform’s “show distance” feature. 

The feature was added to the app back in 2014, after security researchers identified that the platform offered no option to turn off its distance-measuring technology, used by the app to show its members their proximity to potential matches.

Although turning off this feature is supposed to lead to the user’s location being hidden, the Japanese researcher was still able to pinpoint Greenberg’s exact location in under one hour.

According to the report, Hoang was apparently able to identify his phone’s location as accurately as the part of the sofa he was sat on during the experiment.

In terms of method, a variation of triangulation was used, where the researchers used the locations of other users to establish distance from three points, locating the point where the circles intersect each other.

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With Hoang referring to the method as cheap, reliable, and – most alarmingly – applicable to other gay dating apps like Hornet and Jack’d, the security risks to the users of these apps are increased, given that this system could be replicated by almost anyone.

In particular, Wired noted the potentially dangerous implications this could have on people using gay dating apps in places where being a homosexual can be dangerous, should this type of information be leaked.

Responding to the findings, a Grindr spokesperson told Wired: “Grindr takes our users safety extremely seriously, as well as their privacy,” saying the company is “working to develop increased security features for the app.”

Jack’d also commented on the concerns, saying: “We encourage our members to take all necessary precautions with the information they choose to display on their profiles and properly vet people before meeting in public.”

Find out more about the investigation here.

Danielle White

Danielle is a Junior Reporter at Global Dating Insights. Originally from Reading, she has studied Multimedia Journalism at Bournemouth University and has a passion for writing and reporting. She enjoys travelling and likes to spend her free time socialising with friends and attending music events.

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