Tinder glitch posts woman’s Facebook info in place of bio

For the uninitiated, Tinder is an app much like Grindr (except that the latter is targeted primarily to gay men) that allows you to look through photos and profiles of nearby singles to find potential dates. Tinder prides itself on simplicity and control: you flip through profiles, giving a simple yes or no as to whether you have some interest in that person.

If yes, swipe to the right and that person can communicate with you if they say yes when they get to your profile. If no, swipe to the left and you won’t hear from that person or be able to contact them.

The fun stops

It’s great! Until, suddenly, strangers from Tinder begin reaching out to you in the real world, unprompted. This was the experience of Erika Napoletano, perhaps better known as @RedheadWriting and for her various books and talks. She described on her blog the experience of having several suitors come out of the woodwork due to a software glitch resulting in Tinder replacing her Tinder profile bio with the one from her Facebook profile – and worse, this glitch occurred during her attempted Tinder account deactivation!

Instead of removing her Tinder account, she was suddenly switched from Erika Napoletano, a woman who is a certain age and has a witty line or two to describe herself, to Erika Napoletano, a public figure who you can totally reach by going to one of several places on the web.

Though she knew that some kind of error had occurred during her profile deletion, since it told her as much, she assumed it was no problem and something that could be rectified later. Little did she know that her profile was both still public and suddenly more revealing than she ever intended it to be. It wasn’t until she confronted one of several, rather forward men that began messaging her on Facebook, that she could connect the dots.

She says the first shoe dropped with this email, sent through her website’s contact form:

If you don’t like reading images, let’s just say that “I just had to tell you how foul-mouthed you are” isn’t the line most of us are looking for to start off a personal email.

Soon, she heard from several others on Facebook, where she is known as RedheadWriting. Not that her real name is a big secret, but it isn’t exactly optimized for search. She suspected that something with Tinder was afoot, but she had repeatedly opened the app to check to confirm that her profile was gone and it was. Even upon uninstalling and reinstalling, Tinder told her that her profile no longer existed.

A disturbing glitch

Tinder’s marketing suggests that your personal information is only being used to protect you from having people on Tinder invade your real life unless you want them to.
She reports being quite confused since she had used Tinder for several months without anything of the sort going on. Then, suddenly, four men seek her out outside of Tinder? That’s beyond coincidental. She tries to contact Tinder through multiple media, unsuccessfully, before turning to one of the suitors to see where he found her. He explains that her contact information is right there in her Tinder profile, so Tinder’s safeguard that requires both parties to want to speak is unnecessary; after all, she linked to these other places in her bio!

Tinder integrates with Facebook to make it easier to share photos of yourself (the app is very photo-centric) and to keep you from seeing or being seen by Facebook friends while using the app. While you set yourself up for some issues by allowing apps to integrate into Facebook, Tinder’s marketing suggests that your personal information is only being used to protect you from having people on Tinder invade your real life unless you want them to.

You can use the Facebook profile information for the same purpose in the app, but you can easily wipe that out and use something else as Napoletano did.

So much for that. Her research into the issue has led her to believe that not only did this switch happen upon her attempt to delete her profile, it kept her deleted profile visible to others for at least 12 hours.

Meanwhile, she was repeatedly frustrated in her attempts to get help from Tinder. This very troublesome and potentially dangerous mistake went unnoticed by Tinder and she has yet to update with any assurance from Tinder that it has been rectified. After publishing her blog post, she did report finally making contact with Tinder, but nothing more substantive has developed to our knowledge.

More than a software problem

The most dedicated creeps could connect most people’s information on Tinder to a real person. Your name and picture alone could lead to various social media. But, of course, they never did for Napoletano. Most people aren’t that creepy; she was just another person on Tinder. While she has some fame, it’s not enough that the vast majority of Tinder users would recognize her as someone extra special in comparison to the rest of the folks on Tinder.

What an app like Tinder has to do is provide reasonable safeguards to keep people from becoming targets.
Though I have to acknowledge that Tinder is not purporting to be privacy software, it does market itself as a reasonably safe and easy way to meet people. If reaching people outside of the app was meant to be easy, its main selling feature of mutual approval before communicating would be moot. Tinder is meant to be empowering – a swipe here, a swipe there, and suddenly you’re in a private chat with someone who you are getting to know better and with whom you actively desired to chat. Too weird? Bye bye! Perfect match? Let’s go on a date!

That this happened at all is a big problem. When it comes to dating, you can’t really be anonymous. You have to put yourself out there and that can be especially dicey for women. What an app like Tinder has to do is provide reasonable safeguards to keep people from becoming targets. That means your software has to work – and when it doesn’t, it can’t prevent someone from deleting their account and also change their public profile information.

It isn’t even the first time. Earlier this year, security researchers found that any hacker with “rudimentary” knowledge could have tracked Tinder users’ GPS location with very high accuracy for a period of months. Months before that, it was reported that user locations were inadvertently exposed, though the time of exposure is debated after questions were raised over Tinder’s truthfulness in that matter. In November, other holes in the app’s API were found to make it possible to communicate with users who had not expressed interest, find users’ Facebook profiles, and reveal their email addresses (these were all separate issues).

Tinder’s failure to address this problem in a timely manner just compounds the error. Perhaps they have, after days, assured Napoletano that the issue has been fixed for her. With no public assurances, how could anyone be sure that something similar can’t happen to them? Given the lack of response to her, especially when she was not publicly shaming the company, Tinder appears callous and unconcerned about the quality of their service.

I’m swiping left when it comes to Tinder.