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In short, photos are hosted on an outside company’s servers.
As Joseph Bonneau explained, the main website provides an obfuscated URL for the photo to anyone it deems has permission to view it.
But in Bonneau’s experiment with 16 popular websites, removing the photo from the main website didn't always remove it from the Content Delivery Network; in those cases, anyone who still had the destination URL would be able to view the photo.
This means that Content Delivery Networks can maintain caches of sensitive photos even after users “delete” them, leaving photos vulnerable to being rediscovered or even hacked in the future.
It’s good to familiarize yourself with the other available privacy settings regardless of which site you are using. Users hoping to create a barrier between their real identities and their online dating profiles might use strategies such as pseudonyms and misleading information in a profile to obfuscate their identity.
Grindr acknowledged the vulnerability on January 20th and promised a mandatory update to their software “over the next few days.” To date, Grindr's blog and Twitter profile do not mention a security fix for the flaw.
While there haven’t been reports about a hack of the straight-themed sister app, Blendr, security experts speculate that it suffers from a similar vulnerability. While this isn’t the case for every online dating site, Ok Cupid profiles are public by default and indexed by Google.
For right now, we have to agree with Sophos security: if you’ve got a Grindr or Blendr account, you should close it at least until the security vulnerability is addressed; then keep an eye on the Grindr blog for news of a security update. It’s a simple privacy setting, but it can trip up even advanced users, as Wikileaks' Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange learned last year when his publicly-accessible Ok Cupid profile was discovered.
Here are six sobering facts about online dating services and a few suggestions for routing around the privacy pitfalls. Your dating profileincluding your photos—can hang around long after you’ve moved on.
Whether you signed up on a lark or maintained an active profile for several years, your online dating profile can be lurking around long after you’ve cancelled the account.