Popular gay dating apps Grindr and Romeo may not be safe to use as users of such apps can find the exact locations of other users in their area using a simple computing technique, according to BBC.
The technique that people can use to pinpoint a user’s exact location is called trilateration, which sounds complicated but it is actually rather simple. When the app tells a user that someone is, say, 300 feet away, the user can move their pin on the map accordingly and draw a circle with a 300-foot radius on the map to reveal the approximate location of the person. From there, the user can continue to draw circles on the map around the initial circle which will eventually reveal the exact location of another user. That’s pretty frightening, considering people don’t even have to leave their house to be able to do this.
The implications, of course, are that it is very easy to stalk people use trilateration which could yield potentially dangerous results such as assault, harassment, or any number of hate crimes perpetrated by an unscrupulous person.
What’s even more frightening is that the owners of the above-mentioned apps have known about this issue for years but still haven’t fixed it. Grindr has said that the app gives users the option to “hide their distance information from their profiles” and that they blur the location data of users who live in countries where it is dangerous to be gay, but it is still entirely possible to find users’ exact locations in the UK, and, I assume, in the US.
Romeo has said that it is “technically impossible” to stop people from trilaterating users’ locations, despite having the option to let users fix their location on a certain part of the map if they wish to hide their exact position. This option is not available by default.
What are your thoughts on this? With apps such as Grindr and Romeo, it may be difficult to tell the good from the bad but do you think that trilateration is that big of a deal? Or should you not worry too much about this?