So So Gay has learned of a security flaw with popular social networking application Grindr which could put customers personal details at risk.
Once a profile is created with the social networking service, the profile and all associated information is paired with that handset. Many users may have appreciated not needing to provide login details every time they load up the service. However, it has since been discovered that this convenience also carries an inherent risk, as the profile becomes paired with the device and remains paired with that device, even after the programme has been uninstalled.
This means that if a phone is passed on or even sold, and the application reinstalled, the new owner would potentially have access to the prior owners personal information on the service. The information that can be accessed includes, pictures, conversation records and even phone numbers and map references, which could cause a great deal of distress and personal embarrassment to users who placed their faith in the app to keep their private lives private.
We were advised of the problem by Ben Sewell, 24, who approached So So Gay after the problem arose when his fiancé gave his old phone away to a friend.
‘My partner owned an iPhone 3G purchased soon after release, on which he installed Grind roughly 2 and a half years ago. He then purchased the iPhone 4s a few months after release and again installed Grindr, whilst syncing with his iTunes account. The iPhone 3g was completely wiped and restored with all applications and media removed.
We then gave the old iPhone 3g to an acquaintance and one of the first things he did was to install Grindr. He told us later that it initially loaded with our photo, profile details and all our favourites.’
When asked by So So Gay if he had put his concerns to Grindr and reported the issue, Mr Sewell confirmed that he had done so, but received no response from their support team, leaving him in doubt about the applications ability to keep his personal data safe.
So So Gay contacted Grindr for comment on this potential hole in data security, and one of their representatives confirmed that there is a process to permanently delete a profile, however it is not as simple or straightforward as some users may like:
‘While we don’t comment on specific security issues, protecting our users is our core priority. We recommend that all users who plan to switch mobile devices completely delete their profile details on their old device.
‘To do so requires that iOS and Android users first update their old device to the latest version of Grindr or Grindr Xtra. Then, they must select “Delete” or “Clear My Profile” under “Edit Profile” and also contact customer service. BlackBerry users need simply contact customer service directly for specific instructions.
‘A support article on deleting a user profile on all platforms can be found on the Grindr website. Customer service requests are dealt with as soon as possible but during peak times may be longer than expected, and users should leave sufficient time for their requests to be processed.’
Grindr was originally launched in March 2009 by Nearby Buddy Finder LLC and became famous thanks to rapid word of mouth reviews. The application is now available in the iTunes App Store and the Android Marketplace, in both free and premium forms. As of March 2012, the United States hosted the highest number of Grindr users with nearly 1,443,500, while London topped the list of cities with 195,000 users. British users increased by 30,000 alone after the app was mentioned by Stephen Fry on the popular TV show Top Gear.