Stalking your Facebook friends on Tinder
Whoa hello hey look I think I made a thing that lets you see the Tinder profiles of your Facebook friends. That’s Tinder photos, bios, and the last time they were on Tinder. You can also swipe right on their Tinder profiles, even if Tinder doesn’t suggest them to you. I think this has some pretty ~spooky~ privacy implications, and this post is about how it works.
I told Tinder that I found this thing, and they said it was a feature, not a bug. If you want to skip the blog post and just get straight to swiping right on your friends and downloading their Tinder profiles, here’s the GitHub repository.
Otherwise… Get ready for some texttttttt
Hey what up it’s me ya friendly neighbourhood homeslice Alex comin’ atcha’ LIVE with some phresh new #content. That’s right it’s the inevitable disappointing sequel to “Graphing when your Facebook friends are awake” streamed to your screen in HIGH DEFINITION TEXT.
For the sake of helping you find the parts of this post that are not gratuitous gags (it’s easier that way), I’ve put the important parts in bold. I have also put some parts in italics for emphasis and other times as a quote. I’ve also noticed that sometimes things are in bold or italics seemingly at random, overall reducing the helpfulness of the whole thing.
I’m a time traveller from 2004 and I don’t know what Tinder is
Invest now in emoji they’re gonna be BIG.
Tinder is a “Lifestyle” app (apps are like websites but worse) that lets you ‘Anonymously “like” or “pass” people Tinder suggests’. I read it on the login screen to their app so it must be true.
Now that we’re all up to speed, you know how Tinder has profiles? They’re the page someone looks at when they decide whether to swipe left or right on you. Normally you only appear to people that Tinder chooses to show your profile to. Anyway so one day my phone rings and it’s President Obama saying “Alex my son you absolute ledge, go see if Tinder has any weird secret APIs you can use to do something cool idk” and I was all “rest easy baz m8 I’m on the case”
Cut to me in my room. I’m about to try and “do hacking”. Around me are two computer monitors, two laptops, and no friends. It’s 10pm on a Saturday night and I’ve decided that I want to poke around on Tinder (not like that) and see if I can find anything interesting (also not like that).
The first step is to use the Tinder app and see what the app does, in the hopes of catching it doing something silly.
But I don’t have a Tinder account, and I don’t plan to. (But it’s okay if you use Tinder. That’s not what this post is about.)
The only way to sign up for a Tinder account is by signing in with your Faceook account, but I don’t want to use mine. I happened to have an absolutely true blue Terms-of-Service-Compliant spare Facebook account lying around, so I made a Tinder account with this Facebook account. I had to pick a profile photo for the account so I picked uhhhhhhh
I have alarmingly little justification for this so it’s probably better if you just keep reading.
Mad-dawg-y dawg 31337 el8 hacking #sk1llz
I wanted to see what the Tinder app was doing behind the scenes, kinda like how you can put on your hoodie, yell “hold my calls” to nobody in particular, click “Inspect Element” on a web page, and call yourself a hacker. This will let you see all the stuff that the page is sending and receiving and also finally make people respect you for the edgelord you are. You can’t “Inspect Element” on an app, so I used mitmproxy to spy on my phone.
mitmproxy is an elite hacker tool that lets me view data the Tinder app was sending to and from my phone and increases my fedora size by 7000%. I installed mitmproxy’s provided 103% legit artisanal HTTPS certificate to my phone, which gives me the master keys to decrypt whatever my phone sends to and from Tinder servers. I go and edit my phone’s WiFi proxy settings to say “HEY big guy you know how you thought that the internet was over THERE well actually my laptop is the internet so you can just send all your data there instead okay yeah sick one”. Since my phone is now politely sending all the good stuff to my laptop instead of my router, I can use my laptop to spy on all the internet connections my phone is making.
Here we can see that my phone is talking to an API at api.gotinder.com. It’s telling Tinder “hey, I’m online and about to start swiping furiously so I hope your AWS load-balancers are ready for this”, and asking the server for a list of faces to swipe. It’s also sending some gentle analytics like where I am, the make and model of my phone, who my phone provider is, and whether I have Tinder Plus, the Money Edition of Tinder.
At this point, like in general, I don’t really know what I’m looking for or even how this app works. There’s something about swiping people right. Sometimes you let your friends use your account to chat with strangers. That’s all I got. The app seems to aggressively want me to be excited about it but I’m confused. I’m just here to try to catch this app doing something silly behind the scenes and try and fix it.
Since I don’t know what I’m looking for, I try everything. I change all the settings. I’m now a 20 year-old Flamingo interested in Men and Women from age 18 to 30 from up to 100km away (roughly 200,000 “Make America Great Again” hats laid end-to-end if you only know Freedom Units and need to visualise), The first time someone’s face comes up I mess up and can’t figure out which way is “right” and accidentally “pass” them. The app says “NOPE!” and I see their face fade into the void. I’m already a judgement machine and I haven’t even started. I furiously spam “Like” on a bunch of faces in the hopes that someone will also “Like” my high-resolution flamingo picture. If someone “matches” with me I’ll be able to chat with them, and a whole other section of the app to poke around in will open up.
Nobody will ask any questions about the fact that my profile has only a single photo, it’s of a flamingo, and that my bio is just “Flamingooooo”.
Look I really thought my flamingo idea was going to be a good one but nobody liked me back.
I googled “stock photos faces” and picked one of a lady in a hat. Yeah. A hat. That’ll work. I cropped the photo slightly and added a subtle filter to attempt to fool the most basic of reverse image searchers and then realised that I really should probably consider going outside more I hear it’s pretty high-resolution out there too.
Instead I go back to the Android guest user I’ve added to my phone with the disposable email address the Facebook account uses. I set my phone to use my laptop as a proxy, sending all traffic to the laptop before it hits the internet so I can spy on myself. I change my photo to the hat lady and spam some swipes right on some faces.
Almost immediately I’m informed that “It’s a match!” in some hipster cursive font. (Probably Lobster. Have you seen that thing it’s everywhere.) My choices are “Send a message” or “Keep swiping” (Fun fact, in an earlier version of the app, “Keep swiping” read “Keep playing”.) I pick “Send a message”. I spy on the network requests that the chat part of the app does but I can’t see the actual message text for some reason. Is it not being sent over HTTP? Some other protocol? Is it doing some XMPP or websockets sacrificial ritual? Is it converting each message to base64, storing that base64 in italics in Times New Roman in a PDF, inserting that PDF into a cell in a Microsoft Excel 2003 spreadsheet and ROT13-ing the whole thing? I’ll never know, I gave up and stumbled on a way better feature.
“I’ve always wanted Tinder in group form”
We’ve all felt it at one time or another. Good news. It’s finally here. If you live in Australia like me, your Tinder account will have an option to check out “Tinder Social”.
Tinder Social is the whole swiping-chatting-meeting-up experience, but now it’s with groups of people and you’ll have a perfect moment to spam “when the whole squad is on point”.
That’s right, you too can exchange four messages with a group of stock photos, just like the lucky folks in this mockup.
I took the picture above from Tinder’s announcement blog post. I noticed that one of the photos in this mockup is the same stock photo I used for my non-flamingo Tinder photo and the internet feels a little smaller.
You might have a lot of feelings about this particular feature of Tinder, and that’s okay with me. This blog post is long enough as it is though, and you probably have to get going soon since you left something in the oven or something, so I’m just going to move on if that’s alright with you.
Because Tinder is really on the fence about whether it’s a parody of itself or not, internally the app calls groups “squads”. Here’s an example:
There’s really nothing I can say here so let’s just enjoy this special moment.
If you haven’t heard of Tinder Social, it’s because it’s only in Australia for now “as a test”. If it works Tinder might roll it out to the rest of the world. (UPDATE: Plot twist, it launched in the US the same day this blog post came out! See the bottom of this post for details.)
That’s right, Australia-production is basically a staging server at this point. “We’ll just yolo-deploy this 176% legit “Tinder for Squads” to uhhh I dunno let’s go with uhhhh Australia just as a test and if it works, great, but if it turns out to be bad NO WORRIES MATES IT’S JUST AUSTRALIA LOL”. What the heck Tinder I can’t believe you chose the continent of Australia as the A in your A/B test. What, do you think we’re second-class internet citizens just because our internet is desperately struggling to hold up under the weight of Netflix and it’s probably faster and cheaper to send a big file to your mate on the other side of the country via a Kangaroo with a pouch full of MicroSD cards than attempting to upload anything faster than 700Kbps? Even if the Kangaroo gets lost and goes on a Pokewalk and is all like “hey guys guess what I found a ZUBAT” then it’s STILL going to be faster than looking at a website, your eyes wide in innocent horror being like “but I don’t understand. Why isn’t uploading? Did I do something wrong? Did I break the app?”. But it’s not your fault. Dry your eyes. I’m not crying. You’re crying.
Hey I’ve been reading this for like a long time can you get to the stalking my friends thing now?
Sorry it’s just that I get a bit s̫ͅt̀͊ͬr͒e̗̎s̠ͭͫseͧd͛͟ sometimes ya feel?
There’s no concept of “friends” on Tinder, only people who you have “matched” with. So Tinder Social shows you your Facebook friends on Tinder and lets you choose from them who to add to your group.
In the app you don’t see anything other than names and Facebook profile pictures for your friends. But let’s just casually point mitmproxy at the Tinder app while it brings up the “choose friends” screen.
Mostly this is just names and profile photos of your Facebook friends, which is nothing you couldn’t get from the official Facebook API. This data is from a fake Tinder account I created to test my idea. But what about this part?
That’s the Tinder user id of this Facebook friend. (I’ve cut out some of it so you can’t go stalking this account.) This id uniquely identifies a Tinder account. Surely it can’t be THAT easy. Can it? What do you think? Vote on your phones now!
If you send:
Then Tinder sends back:
‘bio’: “hi every1 im new!!!!!!! *holds up spork* my name is katy but u can call me t3h PeNgU1N oF d00m!!!!!!!! lol…as u can see im very random!!!!”,
‘birth_date_info’: ‘fuzzy birthdate active, not displaying real birth_date’,
‘common_friends’: [<common Facebook friends go here>],
‘common_likes’: [<common Facebook likes go here>],
‘connection_count’: [the number of people you’ve swiped (I think?) go here],
‘distance_mi’: 1, // How far the person is from you right now
‘gender’: 1, // 1 is female, 0 is male. C’mon Tinder that’s not how gender works
‘name’: ‘Victoria’, // Note that there’s no last name
‘ping_time’: ‘2016-07-16T02:51:45.475Z’, // The last time the person was on Tinder
Yeah look I know you probably didn’t read that so let me explain. No no, it’s fine, you don’t have to go back and read it now. It’s really no trouble.
If we have someone’s Tinder id, we can see:
- Tinder photos
- Tinder bio (a short “about me”)
- The last time they were on Tinder
- How many people they’ve swiped (I think??)
- A few other things, but you already knew them from Facebook
Hey, look, you can see the last time someone was on Tinder.
According to Tinder, this feature is disabled. Here’s a screenshot of their support page.
I guess they only disabled it in the app screens, rather than changing what the server sends to your phone.
Why, with information like that you could make graphs of when your friends are using Tinder, and probably find out all sorts of interesting things. Who knows what that information correlates with? Just an idea.
And hey, once you have someone’s Tinder user id, you can use the official unofficial API to swipe left or right on them without waiting for them to appear in the stream of people Tinder suggests to you.
You can swipe left or right on them like this:
I’m not sure about this, but it looks like that people who have swiped right on you appear earlier in the list of people Tinder suggests. So what I’m saying here, is maybe you can force Tinder to let you “like” one of your Facebook friends on Tinder? Then you’ll probably appear in their suggestions, and if they “like” you back then you can just be like “haha wow fancy seeing you on tinder” YOU SMOOTH CRIMINAL YOU ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
tl;dr I tried to tell Tinder about this before I wrote this blog post but they were all like:
You can skip this section if you don’t want to read a bug report. It’s okay. I don’t mind. I’ll see you in the next section.
This isn’t much of a “security vulnerability”, and it certainly doesn’t deserve it’s own cool and funky name like Heartbleed. But I thought I’d report it anyway, just in case Tinder didn’t know about it.
I looked around on their site but I couldn’t find a “Security” section so I just made a support ticket.
Here’s what I sent them in full (feel free to skip this):
This isn’t actually a support request. I actually want to report a security vulnerability, but I couldn’t find where to do so.
Would you mind forwarding this to your security team? Thank you! <3
I found that I can find the Tinder profiles of any of my Facebook friends who use Tinder.
This can all be done through the (un)official API, so I’m assuming it’s a “feature” not a bug.
Steps to reproduce:
GET api.gotinder.com/group/friends -> Returns Tinder user ids for all my Facebook friends that have Tinder
GET api.gotinder.com/user/<id> -> Returns, among other things, something like:
connection_count”:1979,“common_like_count”:0,“common_friend_count”:0,“common_likes”:,“common_interests”:,“uncommon_interests”:,“common_friends”:,“_id”:“<tinder user id>”,“badges”:,“bio”:“i dont get it is this app like twitter” “,”birth_date”:“1987-07-[redacted]”,“gender”:0,“name”:“[redacted]”,“ping_time”:“[utc one second resolution timezoned timestamp]
I think that you don’t want to expose that information about my Facebook friends to me.
If this behaviour is intentional:
Sure, it’s your app.
Please reply to this ticket letting me know.
If this behaviour is not intentional:
You should change it!
I recommend not having profile information available at /user/<id>, or limiting it only to users that have been suggested to me.
Please reply promptly if you’d like me to keep this secret, since because I think you think this is a feature not a bug, I’ll probably blog about it publicly soon.
Thanks for reading this!
And here’s the reply I got (within 48 hours, nice!):
Thanks for bringing your concern to our attention. This is a part of our feature called Tinder Social. You may opt out of Tinder Social at anytime by visiting your Settings. If you opt out, you will not appear on your friends’ lists.
To learn more about Tinder Social, please read our blog post here: http://blog.gotinder.com/introducing-tinder-social/.
Props to the Tinder Security Team for responding so quickly. Also, sorry about the barely coherent bug report, it was pretty late by the time I wrote this ;>_>
Anyway, since this thing is a feature, not a bug, I can blog about it in good conscience. Right?
Great, I thought so too. That’s why I also wrote a tool that finds the Tinder information about your Facebook friends for you. Here it is. Before you use it you’ll have to type “y” to a prompt that asks you if you really want to stalk your real-life Facebook friends. You also need to supply your Facebook authentication Token, which you can get by intercepting your Tinder app’s traffic with mitmproxy. Or there might be another way. Or you could just go talk to them, I’m sure they’re nice.
Wow here we go I hope this works fingers crossed hahaha
Phew it worked. That’s a screenshot of the 99% UX-free “webapp” I made to display the Tinder profiles of your friends (with most of the information faked in this picture). This page contains profiles for all your Facebook friends that also have Tinder accounts. You can see information about them, like their bio and the last time they used Tinder. You can also click the buttons to long-range-sniper-noscope swipe left or right on them, even if they haven’t shown up in the stream of people Tinder points at you.
Don’t actually use this by the way. Oh, no. That would be creepy. You wouldn’t do that. Would you?
So is this even a big deal?
Not for everyone, thankfully. But for some Tinder users, yeah it is. The main idea is that there’s a subset of Tinder users that would rush to go and change their profile if they found out their friends could see it.
Here’s what Tinder had to say about being able to find your friends on their blog post announcing Tinder Social:
UPDATE: Any user who would prefer not to be added to groups can opt out of Tinder Social through his/her settings to no longer appear on their friends’ lists. We are only testing it at this point, but it’s important to note Tinder’s not a secret considering 70% of users download Tinder because their friends recommend it.
Yyyyyyeah I don’t really buy this reasoning, so I used it as the slogan of my stalking program.
This is a bit like saying your Facebook Messenger chat history isn’t a secret considering 70% of your friends recommend that you stop trying to SMS them gifs.
For an app about relationships, which are generally the cause of drama and tragedy in most storylines since the beginning of time, suddenly exposing more personal information than before seems like it could lead to immediate and lasting #regrets.
Basically here’s the deal. Some Tinder users put what I’m going to call “sensitive information” in their Tinder profiles. If, suddenly, Tinder goes from “only people Tinder suggests me to can see this” to “People I know in real life can also see this and also swipe me”, I can imagine some people feeling exposed.
Here are some extremely sensationalist examples of Bad Times that could happen:
- You see that your monogamous cousin’s boyfriend is using Tinder right now
- You see that your partner is using Tinder right now
- Your friend’s using Tinder for dating but their Dad is a Mormon minister so they don’t want anyone to know
- Your Facebook friend sees your Tinder bio and judges you, being all like “oh, I didn’t know you were into that”
- Some bozo makes graphs of when their Facebook friends are using Tinder and publishes them
Those are all pretty worst-case, but they could happen. And I don’t want that!
I’m writing this blog post so you know that people can do this on Tinder, and hey, maybe to encourage the folks at Tinder to reconsider deploying Tinder Social to the rest of the world. (UPDATE: lol too late)
Okay, and I’m also still a little salty about the “idk just try it out in uhhh idk, Australia” thing.
- Tinder Social means your Facebook friends can see your Tinder user id
- Using the Tinder API, your friends can use your user id to both swipe you and see your Tinder photos, bio, and the last time you were online.
Hey wasn’t your last blog post also about stalking your friends?
Heh yeah, two blogs in a row on stalking your friends, no biggie y’know haha. They’re my ONLY two blogs actually ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahaha so funny anyway I have to go I’m go̕i̗nǵ thrͩou͎g̼h a̰ͩ͂ tunn̅̾ėlͧ́ ȓ̸̜͊i͂g͡h͒t̶̛̟͂́͟ ̴͛̕͜n̬̾o̒̿͠w
UPDATE: Plot twist, Tinder launched Tinder Social in the US the same day as this blog post was published! According to their blog post “You have to unlock Tinder Social in order to use it. Once you do, you’ll see your friends who’ve also unlocked it (and they’ll see you).” I ran Tinder Detective just now to see if what I did still works, and it does. This could be because I’m in Australia and everyone in Australia has Tinder Social “unlocked”. Or it could be that the APIs I’m using work regardless of whether Tinder Social is “unlocked”. If you’re in America and you feel like testing out whether the tool I wrote works there too, tweet me.
Jumbo-size extra crispy shoutouts to top humans Smerity and Blake for their sagely review of this blog post, and just generally for stopping me from writing too many dumb things <3 <3
If you want to talk to me about this blog post then I dunno tweet at me I guess. You can also stalk me on GitHub if you want. To look at dumb websites I made, you can direct your browser to http://oneu.se.