Today’s article is in response to another reader question and regards Tinder. They emailed us this week and asked ‘Does Tinder show or expose your email address? Since signing up to the app I have been receiving spam emails offering to hook me up with hot dates and I’m worried.’
Tinder is a phenomenal dating app used by millions of people. It apparently has 1.9 billion swipes per day. That’s a lot of people looking for dates! As this is a dating app, you have to provide an amount of personal data in order to build that profile.
Tinder links to Facebook which means it has access to even more data than you might like. That link between the two is the cost of doing business on Tinder.
Does Tinder show your email address?
First off, let me answer the initial question. Does Tinder show or expose your email address? No Tinder does not tell anyone your phone number, real name, email address or anything else. That is not to say this stuff doesn’t leak or cannot be hacked, but Tinder has quite a strict data policy that keeps your personal information as safe as it can be.
If you’re interested in how much data Tinder keeps on you, read this piece from British newspaper The Guardian.
How do spammers get my email address then?
In the context of the original question, our dear reader said she had begun seeing spam emails shortly after signing up to Tinder. So how to spammers get hold of the email address?
Dishonest ISP or company employees and hackers have been known to collate huge lists of email addresses and sell them to spammers. You can buy lists of thousands of addresses on the dark net for as little as $40 per 100,000 addresses. If you provide your email address to a company for any reason and an employee needs a little cash, this is one of the ways they can make it.
Web scrapers are bots who search the internet for email addresses. If you run a website or add your email address in the clear on any web page, anywhere, it can be picked up by a scraper. These semi-intelligent programs look for ‘@’ anywhere on a page, filter out the trash and compile huge lists of email addresses.
There are more shady companies out there who offer to sign you up for newsletters or offers and other inducements only to sell your personal data on for cash. Many will promise you that your data will not be shared, but it is.
Social networks leak your data like a sieve. It should be no surprise that we all give out more data than we would while online and social media is a prime place for that to happen. The same scrapers that work on web pages also target social networks too.
The final way someone might get your email address is by using a dictionary bot. The bot will take the usual @hotmail.com or @gmail.com addresses and just add names, numbers and random words in front of the address prefix. Spam bots then send out email messages to these randomly generated email addresses and note which ones get delivered and which are refused by email servers. Gradually these addresses are refined until a list of legit addresses is created.
So what was the point of that exposition on how spammers get your email addresses? It illustrates just how email addresses can be found, accessed and used. Just because you recently signed up to a new product or service and begin receiving spam does not necessarily mean that service leaked your email address. There are many ways to get it.
How to use Tinder safely
The usual method of using a Gmail address specifically for your dating doesn’t necessarily work for Tinder as it plugs directly into Facebook. There is a way around that though it does require effort. Rather than just setting up a specific email account, you will need to create an entire persona just for Tinder.
This is only going to be worth it if you’re planning to use Tinder a lot. Otherwise you may just prefer to spend the extra time filtering junk mail. If you want to do it, here’s how.
- Set up a new Gmail or Hotmail account in a fake name.
- Use your Google Voice phone number or buy a $5 burner SIM to register on Facebook. As far as I know, all the old ways of registering without a phone number no longer work.
- Set up a fake profile on Facebook using information as close to the truth as possible.
- Join Facebook groups, have friends Like some posts on your new Facebook account and interact as much as possible.
- After a month or so, when you have a decent level of activity on your Facebook account, sign up to Tinder using it.
- Begin using Tinder as your new persona.
I believe there is filtering on Tinder that looks for fake Facebook accounts in order to prevent scammers creating fake Tinder profiles. That’s why I suggest leaving it a while until you have some time and activity under your belt. The more legit the account looks, the higher the chance of having it accepted.
There is an obvious ethical question to answer here. If you’re using a fake Facebook account, aren’t you scamming people you match with on Tinder? The answer depends on how factual you make your profile. If you tell the truth in everything but your email address or use your middle name as your first and tell the truth everywhere else, I see no problem with it.
The point here is to protect your personal data, not to scam other Tinder users. As long as you are truthful in everything else, you should be fine. Any match you meet up with will understand as long as you don’t lie to them.
Tinder does try to protect your data as much as possible. If you read that piece on how much data the company keeps on you, setting up a fake profile doesn’t seem like such hard work does it?