Tinder and a raft of new social apps are all encouraging us all to change how we behave under the cover of pseudo-anonymity.
But what if we’re not as anonymous as we think? What if the things we say under cover of darkness are actually directly traceable to our real-world identities, regardless of how well we disguise our name or age. What if our psuedo-anonymity is in fact just a mirage and we’re actually completely onymous?
Your Tinder photo may tell people exactly who you are
It occurred to me that I may well be able to find out exactly who people are using only their profile photos. And as it turned out I was right.
Tinder + Google Image search = Your Other Profiles
This isn’t a problem with Tinder’s security, it’s happening because all of our different identities are getting wired together - even our profile images. Using a combination of a Tinder profile photo and Google’s image search it’s trivial to find out who many people are in the real world.
Voila one delectable Tinder profile:
Google Image search lets me search for an image using another image. So I can take my profile photo and use it to search the web for anything similar:
Let me crop my profile down to just the photo and pop it into Google:
Oh hai! A whole bunch of different social profiles including my Twitter account and my AngelList profile.
It’s not rock solid but it does work…
I tried this technique on 22 different profiles from Tinder. 7 of them (32%) came back with positive matches and correlated the photos with their real-world Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn accounts.
Treat profile pics like passwords. Or like…?
Given that people can cross match photos between social networks you probably want to make sure that you don’t inject different networks using the the same photos. If you do then people will ultimately be able to cross-match you. Or don’t do stuff that it would matter if people cross matched. Also, don’t do drugs.
Treat your profile photos like you treat your needles. Make sure you use a clean one for each network… http://t.co/KXNlR2JucV
— Peter Nixey (@peternixey)August 13, 2014
Secondly it would be good to see Google starting to step up and give people options for managing their identity in searches. For Eric Schmitt of all people to tell people that "if you don’t have something you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place" is a) freakin’ hilarious b) woefully unrealistic.
Google should step up and give people more control
Google’s notorious for not screwing with search results and that’s great. But I don’t think it’s going to last in the social era. People need a dashboard of what’s on the web about them and they need a way to moderate how it interlinks.
Google Plus was designed with the idea of keeping us private on a social network. And it succeeded, albeit by removing all of the other members of the network. However a Plus-type application that really did provide that functionality - the ability to shut down our public profiles would be a boon.
None of these solutions will last in the long term, the technology will overtake us all. However that doesn’t mean we (and you Google and Facebook) shouldn’t take responsibility and ensure that we continue to take reasonable steps to protect each other in the short term.