40,000 Tinder Pictures Scraped To Make A Dataset For AI Experiments

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Online dating skeptics have plenty of reasons for opting out of modern singles’ favorite way to date, but here’s one they probably hadn’t thought of yet: personal photos being stolen for use in AI experiments.

A user of Kaggle, a platform for machine learning and data science competitions which was recently acquired by Google, exploited Tinder’s API to scrape 40,000 profile photos from Bay Area users of the dating app. He used them to train artificial intelligence, and also organized the images into a downloadable facial data set called People of Tinder.

Stuart Colianni, the creator of the data set, described it as a “simple script to scrape Tinder profile photos for the purpose of creating a facial dataset.” He also described Tinder as offering “near unlimited access to create a facial data set” and said his scraping the app offers “an extremely efficient way to collect such data.”

Colianni was inspired to create the scraper by the subpar experience of working with other facial data sets. “I have often been disappointed,” he wrote. “The datasets tend to be extremely strict in their structure, and are usually too small. Tinder gives you access to thousands of people within miles of you. Why not leverage Tinder to build a better, larger facial dataset?”

The “why not” is actually quite simple: because it violates the privacy of thousands of people who use the dating app and never gave permission for their images to be used.

Naturally, Tinder responded and demanded that Colianni remove the six downloadable zip files he had published on Kaggle under a CC0: Public Domain License. That page now returns a 404, but the script Colianni used to scrape the data can still be found on GitHub.

In a statement to TechCrunch, Tinder said:

We take the security and privacy of our users seriously and have tools and systems in place to uphold the integrity of our platform. It’s important to note that Tinder is free and used in more than 190 countries, and the images that we serve are profile images, which are available to anyone swiping on the app. We are always working to improve the Tinder experience and continue to implement measures against the automated use of our API, which includes steps to deter and prevent scraping.

This person has violated our terms of service (Sec. 11) and we are taking appropriate action and investigating further.

This isn’t the first time developers have toyed with Tinder’s supposedly-private API. It’s been used to promote a movie, to automatically swipe right on potential dates, and to trick men into flirting with each other. Each time, it’s a warning to users to guard their personal information as fiercely as they can, and a reminder to companies that continually strengthening security measures is essential.

For more info on this dating service you can read our Tinder app review.