2021 Shortlist

We know who you are dating

Country/area: Finland

Organisation: Helsingin Sanomat HS.fi

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 24 Jan 2020

Credit: Pauliina Siniauer, Timo Myllymäki, Olli Pietiläinen, Anni Kössi, Petri Salmén, Minna-Liisa Linjala, Merituuli Saikkonen, Uolevi Holmberg, Andrew Lehren (NBC), Connor Ferguson (NBC)

Project description:

The phone’s dating apps know almost everything about their user: where you are, who you’re communicating with, what music you’re listening to, and even what you’re aroused about. We, together with an American news channel NBC News, went through the most popular dating apps, compared which data each of them collects, looked where the data ends up and what that data can cause in the wrong hands. When you are looking for love, the data privacy risks are not what you are thinking when agreeing on the terms of use. 

Impact reached:

It was an eye-opener for many. Dating apps, and all the tips you find online concerning to use of dating apps, tell you that more info you share about yourself, more accurate partner you can find. The story shows how security risks increase, the more data you share, and also how your data is being sold.  The terms of use can be 19 pages long. The story explains, what does those 19 pages actually mean. 

Techniques/technologies used:

To be able to see which data each dating app collects, we had to make an account for each dating app. Then we started to collect info from the apps to an excel. We also did a non-scientific “stalking test”: we tried to find out, how easy it is to identify people based on the dating app account. For this test we took the first three matches from each app we used. Then we did what any curious person would do: we googled them. We used Google image search and traditional Google search. 8 out of 9 of our matches we were able to identify with this methodology, even the dating app account often only shows the first name and pictures. 

What was the hardest part of this project?

Tricky part was to make the dating app profiles, because there are restrictions, which kind of fake id’s you can use as a journalist. Our accounts had to be “human” enough, but not misleading too much. We wanted matches, but not to get involved. 

But the really hard part was to read all the data privacy policies and terms of use and to really understand what they mean. And into which apps the dating apps are connected with and how all these apps share information.  

What can others learn from this project?

To collect data can sometimes be really hands-on. 

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