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Tinder users beware: Website allows others to track your activity

An example from the Swipe Buster website of how the service works.
An example from the Swipe Buster website of how the service works. Swipebuster.com

For $5 U.S. and a few bits of information, a new website allows a person to track any Tinder user’s activity.

Swipe Buster asks for the person’s name, age, gender and their general location. Hit search and profiles matching the entered info will pop up, listing when they last used the dating app and if they were searching for men or women.

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While the website appears to be aimed at catching your significant other being unfaithful, the website’s potential impact could have far wider reach.

“It raises significant privacy concerns,” says Karen Eltis, law professor at the University of Ottawa. “It’s a private company that’s collecting information on individuals, and very personal information.”

Tinder users might be exposed to personal safety risks or intimidation stemming from information obtained through Swipe Buster, Eltis says.

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“First of all, it’s the motivation of those paying $5 to track somebody is perhaps questionable,” says Eltis, who points to the Ashley Madison hack as a similar privacy leak that led to “tremendous fallout.”

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“The problem with privacy of the Internet is contextualization, how easy things can be manipulated,” Eltis added.

In fact, the website’s creators say it’s not about catching cheating partners at all: Swipe Buster was created to show people how insecure their information and activity is online.

“People have too much available information about themselves online which is public, we want to make people aware of this fact and more conscious about the information there is about themselves, not just on Tinder but on any site Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest whatever,” the website’s creators said in an emailed statement to Global News.

Swipe Buster uses data obtained from Tinder’s public application programming interface (A.P.I.), which holds all its users’ info.

“Our digital footprints speak volumes about us, every person needs to at least know what can be found about them and make the decision whether they want that information out there or not.”

The website’s aim is not to make money, and it has not made any profit, say the creators, who have chosen to stay anonymous.

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“We could shut down if we feel the message has come across effectively, it seems to be on its way to do that.”

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has warned again and again that both individuals and companies need to be more diligent in protecting information online.

Eltis says everyone needs to treat their personal information as a valuable asset.

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“I think people underestimate the value of sensitive personal information. People tend to treat is as innocuous and give it away freely, when it should be guarded very jealously, particularly location information,” Eltis says.

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Global News reached out to Tinder for comment, but did not receive a response by time of publication.