Tinder Irate As Researcher Scoops Up Profile Photos For Research

Images of Tinder users have apparently been swept up in a massive grab of some 40,000 photos from the dating app by a dataset collector who plans to use the selfies in artificial intelligence training. Here’s the details via TechCrunch:

A user of Kaggle, a platform for machine learning and data science competitions which was recently acquired by Google, has uploaded a facial data set he says was created by exploiting Tinder’s API to scrape 40,000 profile photos from Bay Area users of the dating app — 20,000 apiece from profiles of each gender.

The data set, called People of Tinder, consists of six downloadable zip files, with four containing around 10,000 profile photos each and two files with sample sets of around 500 images per gender.

Some users have had multiple photos scraped from their profiles, so there is likely a lot fewer than 40,000 Tinder users represented here.

The creator of the data set, Stuart Colianni, has released it under a CC0: Public Domain License and also uploaded his scraper script to GitHub.

He describes it as a “simple script to scrape Tinder profile photos for the purpose of creating a facial dataset,” saying his inspiration for creating the scraper was disappointment working with other facial data sets. He also describes Tinder as offering “near unlimited access to create a facial data set” and says scraping the app offers “an extremely efficient way to collect such data.”

“I have often been disappointed,” he writes of other facial data sets. “The datasets tend to be extremely strict in their structure, and are usually too small. Tinder gives you access to thousands of people within miles of you. Why not leverage Tinder to build a better, larger facial dataset?”

Tinder as you would expect isn’t happy about this:

We take the security and privacy of our users seriously and have tools and systems in place to uphold the integrity of our platform. It’s important to note that Tinder is free and used in more than 190 countries, and the images that we serve are profile images, which are available to anyone swiping on the app. We are always working to improve the Tinder experience and continue to implement measures against the automated use of our API, which includes steps to deter and prevent scraping.

This person has violated our terms of service (Sec. 11) and we are taking appropriate action and investigating further.

But here’s the thing. Tinder has a ton of application programming interfaces (API) that have been leveraged to do all sorts of things. Not all of them good:

Developers have done all sorts of weird, wacky and creepy things playing around with Tinder’s (ostensibly) private API over the years, including hacking it to automatically like every potential date to save on thumb-swipes; offering a paid look-up service for people to check up on whether a person they know is using Tinder; and even building a catfishing system to snare horny bros and make them unwittingly flirt with each other.

Thus I can make this argument. Because of Tinder not locking their APIs down, Tinder users should expect that this sort of thing will happen frequently unless Tinder decides to do something about it. Which in my opinion they should… As in right now. And if you as a Tinder user aren’t okay with the current state of affairs, you likely need to go find some other dating app to use. At the same time, this looks to violate the terms of service for Tinder. Thus the person who did this swipe of photos should be sued out of existence. Though I have to wonder how far this will get in court. Assuming it even gets that far. This might be worth keeping an eye on if it heads in the direction of a courtroom.


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