An examination of data sent back to servers by dating app Tinder has shown that the app tracks the “success rate” for photos on the app, revealing just how often images cause users to get right-swiped (liked).
Engineers at London property startup Rentify (full disclosure: CEO George Spencer is a friend of mine) found that Tinder sends back a “success rate” percentage for people’s photos.
It’s likely that the success rate is linked to Tinder’s Smart Photos feature, which measures the amount of right swipes for each photo and automatically orders them to make people more likely to be liked.
But Tinder has never told users how likely they are to be right-swiped. Instead, it only sorted photos by likability.
There’s a big gap between the average success rates of women and men
Analysis by Rentify engineers showed an average success rate for different types of profiles. Heterosexual female photos had an average success rate of 52%, meaning that just over half of the men swiping through Tinder chose to right-swipe and like their profile.
Heterosexual men, however, have a far lower average success rate. Rentify found that heterosexual men had an average of 16%, meaning that less than a fifth of women chose to like their profiles.
And homosexual men were in between the two averages, with an average success rate of 35%.
Rentify only examined around 100 accounts, each with a handful of photos, but the analysis does suggest that heterosexual men have a significantly lower success rate than women.
Tinder guards your overall attractiveness number closely
Success rate does give a good indicator of your attractiveness in each photo, but it isn’t the same as Tinder’s “Elo score.” Fast Company reported in 2016 that the company has an overall attractiveness score for each profile. The name “Elo score” actually comes from the world of competitive chess, where it’s used to assess each player’s skill.
The chart above shows the distribution of Elo scores in a US-based chess database in 2013. Tinder uses the same statistical model, but for attractiveness. In the world of chess, if a low-ranked player beats a high-ranked played, that low-ranked player will receive a boost to their Elo score.
Tinder’s rating system means that if a user with a high Elo score swipes right and likes someone with a low Elo score, the user with the low score would receive a sizable boost because a hot person liked them. And if hot people kept liking them, then their score would rise even more.
Tinder’s Jonathan Badeen admitted as much to Fast Company: “I used to play [‘Warcraft’] a long time ago, and whenever you play somebody with a really high score, you end up gaining more points than if you played someone with a lower score.”
But Tinder founder Sean Rad told Fast Company that a user’s Elo score isn’t just taking into account right swipes, but looks at overall desirability. “It’s very complicated,” he said. “It took us two and a half months just to build the algorithm because a lot of factors go into it.”
You can find your friends’ dates of birth using Tinder
Another value that Tinder tracks is the date of birth of its users. That’s perfectly normal, of course, as the app needs to figure out how old its users are. But every time you use Tinder’s share function to share a profile with a friend, that friend is able to access your full date of birth, regardless of your Tinder or Facebook privacy settings.
Rentify also found that it’s possible to find the exact number of Facebook friends of the person sharing the profile, but not the profile shared. So if I were to share a profile with someone, that person would be able to see my date of birth and the total number of my Facebook friends.
Tinder also stores all of its users’ photos in an unsecured format, meaning that anyone with the URL for one of your photos could enter it into a web browser and see the image.
Rentify found all of this by connecting a smartphone running Tinder to a computer using a man in the middle proxy. That meant all data sent to and from the phone went through the computer, and the company was able to see what Tinder sends back to its servers.
The screenshot above shows the data Tinder sends back to its servers (we’ve blurred out identifying information and photo URLs). The photo selected has a 0.58 success rating, which equals 58%, above average for a heterosexual female.
Tinder did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this article.
Wondering why a London startup was digging around into Tinder? Here’s an explanation from Rentify on why it was experimenting with the app:
The reason we were working on this is because Tinder serves its images over http not https with a predictable file format. We’re setting up a redirect so that every time a new profile loads, and Tinder on our office WiFi asks for the images, we redirect it to a local folder filled with photos of me. So the profile of Jonny, 19, likes tattoos and interesting stories about your cat will load, but the photos will all be of George Spencer, 30, wants you to get back to work. I can’t think of a better way to remove the incentive for being on Tinder in the workplace than all the photos being of your boss frowning.
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