Tinder Does NOT Use Facial or Image Recognition – SH Research Brief

Does Tinder use facial recognition, or more simply, image recognition?

~ Tinder users, usually after trying (and failing) to reset their account, noting a persisting lack of matches and believing Tinder must be tracking them and sticking them with their old score, or shadowban.

No, Tinder uses neither facial recognition, nor image recognition to detect users’ identities and connect them to their old profiles.

This is a rumor that has been circulating online for a while, and is taken as fact by many, including on SwipeHelper’s own subreddit. I have long held the belief that Tinder is not doing anything remotely as sophisticated to identify users, but whereas this used to be an educated guess, I have now been able to prove it in an experiment:

Experiment: “Does Tinder Use Facial or Image Recognition?”

Setup / Methodology

Thanks to fortunate circumstances, I had access to three completely new phones and phone numbers that I could use to create Tinder profiles, thus eliminating that pesky uncertainty of which factor was responsible for a botched reset.

I used fresh google play accounts, which were each created with a fresh email address and phone number, as well as a unique fake name.

I used anonymous google play cards to top up the accounts to buy premium subscriptions, just in case google shares credit card info.

Each phone was used on a different IP address.

I did not connect Instagram, Facebook, or Spotify.

Thus, the only commonality these Tinder profiles could have would be the information I provide during the signup and profile creation phases.

Picture preparation

For each new Tinder account, I would use the same pictures after putting them through the following procedure:

  1. Create a copy of the image with EXIF data removed, using the privacy tab in the property settings through the Windows context menu. See here how else to remove EXIF data (and what it is).
  2. Rename the copy slightly by removing or replacing one letter.
  3. Open the Image in MS paint, add one single black pixel in a random location, and save.

Thus, Tinder could not recognize the images by their file name or associated data, but advanced image recognition, let alone facial recognition should surely do the job if the rumors have any merit.

Tests 1-2: Same day reset

For the first test, I deleted my current, one month old Tinder account (using the same pictures I will use for all tests) on my personal phone.

Next, without any grace period, I created a new Tinder account on one of the new phones with the above described methodology, using the same pictures as the old account.

Results:

~40 likes on day one, then ~3-10 per day for the next 7 days. This is about par for the course for me, and there was definitely a noob boost.

I repeated this test a week later (deleting this new account, then creating a new, new account) and got very similar results.

Test 3: Concurrent identical Tinder profiles

For this test, I did not delete the old account before creating a new one. I recreated exactly the same account, including the name, bio, and images used.

Results:

~45 likes on day one, then ~4-9 per day for the next 7 days. Par for the course.

20 days later, both of these accounts are still running and generating likes concurrently.

Conclusion

Tinder does not use advanced image or facial recognition to identify its users, or if they do, they’re not doing it well.

They do use a form of image recognition provided by Amazon, which is likely the reason for these rumors (apart from denial). “AWS Rekognition” is a different kind of image recognition software though, the purpose of which is to understand what is happening in images to categorize them.

At most, they use hash values and metadata to identify images, which can very easily be tricked by removing EXIF data and ever so slightly editing the image. Ironically, OkCupid which is also owned by Match, uses (or used to use) a more advanced method of image recognition to avoid fake profiles or returning banned users. Note that the linked post is from 2017. We can only assume then, that the cost of doing this is not worth it to the execs at either Tinder or Match for reasons we don’t have to care about.

Advice

When performing profile resets, follow the image preparation steps above in addition to the rest of the outlined procedures in SwipeHelper’s Tinder Profile Reset Guide. You might find EXIFPurge to be a useful tool.

As with cooking, don’t expect the advertized result when deviating from the recipe.

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