UK law lets you request a copy of any personal data of yours that is held by a company. I decided to ask the dating app Tinder to send me a full copy of all the data it holds about me and my account.
First off, here’s how it’s done: I sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org that followed a fairly standard subject access request format (that's the legal term for this kind of email):
[THE EMAIL ADDRESS ASSOCIATED WITH MY TINDER ACCOUNT]
Dear Sir or Madam
Subject access request
Please supply the information about me I am entitled to under the Data Protection Act 1998.
1. Please tell me if any personal data of mine is being processed.
2. Please give me a description of the data, the reason it’s being processed and whether the data has been given to any other organisations.
3. Please give me a copy of all personal data you hold on me.
4. Please give me details of the source of this data if available.
If you need any more information from me, or a fee, please let me know as soon as possible.
It may be helpful for you to know that a request for information under the Data Protection Act 1998 should be responded to within 40 days.
If you do not normally deal with these requests, please pass this letter to your Data Protection Officer. If you need advice on dealing with this request, the Information Commissioner's Office can assist you and can be contacted on 0303 123 1113 or at ico.org.uk
Just over a month later I received a password-locked PDF from Tinder (the password was sent in a separate email). What data would it have? I expected to see some messages, maybe some photos too, but does Tinder store my location as well?
Here's what was in the document:
- My name
- My email address
- My Facebook username
- My gender
- My date of birth
- The date I joined Tinder
- My Tinder bio
- All the photos I had uploaded to my Tinder profile (including ones that had been deleted)
- My last-known location
- My age preferences on Tinder
- My sexual preferences on the app
- My IP address
- The Facebook codes for the schools I went to
- What appears to be every Tinder message I’ve ever sent or received
Obviously the last piece of information is the most interesting, and it took up the majority of the 398 pages. Conversations were sorted by person, not by date, so it was all jumbled together and not especially easy to sort through.
Here’s one conversation I had on Tinder in 2014. Yo was a big deal at the time:
It was a surreal experience to scroll through messages dating back to 2014. There were no names, just numbers. That meant that it was just a collection of awkward conversations and plans to meet.
I stumbled upon messages from dates I'd forgotten, as well as conversations like this:
But there was one type of message that just kept reappearing: Spam.
Lots and lots of spam.
Tinder used to have a real problem with spam being sent to users by fake profiles. It has gotten a lot better, but it used to be a big issue.
Of course, Tinder isn’t the only service that a subject access could work for. I previously sent a similar request to Uber and found the ratings that each of my drivers had left for me.