It’s Possible To Track Another User’s Exact Location on Gay Dating Apps
This could put users at risk, especially in countries where homosexuality is illegal
Most dating apps share your location, but only to let other users know how far away you are, meaning your location info is still relatively secure. However, a team of cyber security researchers has discovered a simple hack that makes it possible to determine another user’s exact location on a number of popular gay dating apps including Grindr, Romeo and Recon.
According to BBC, the researchers determined that someone could easily use the apps to track a user’s precise location using a process called trilateration. These apps typically show how far away a user is from other matches, often down to small, walkable distances like feet or meters. Using trilateration, a user who knows a match is 200 meters away could draw a 200 meter radius around themselves on a map and know their target was somewhere at the end of that circle. If the user then moves in one direction and the distance from their match increases, then moves again and sees the distance decrease, the user can determine their match’s exact location by drawing all those circle on the map at once and finding their target at the intersection.
While this may sound like more work than your average user would be willing to put in, the researchers at Pen Test Partners demonstrated that it’s actually possible to employ this technique without leaving the house using a tool that fakes location.
This hack could leave users on these apps vulnerable to stalking and other safety concerns, especially in countries where homosexuality remains illegal and/or highly stigmatized.
In light of these concerns, the app Recon said it had made changes to better obscure users’ location. “Historically we’ve found that our members appreciate having accurate information when looking for members nearby,” Recon told BBC. “In hindsight, we realize that the risk to our members’ privacy associated with accurate distance calculations is too high and have therefore implemented the snap-to-grid method to protect the privacy of our members’ location information.”
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