IT security is never sexy but it has proven a headache for the world's most popular dating apps. None have suffered to quite the degree of Tinder, the one that made 'swipe left' enter the lexicon.
The problem, as most IT security issues usually come down to at the end of the day, is personal data. Nefarious folk want it and the userbase of Tinder is particularly valuable. That makes bots more than happy to infiltrate the site but it's a nuisance to users and no app wants things that make it a nuisance. It wants the user experience to be as straightforward as possible.
The war on bots has been ongoing for Tinder since its early days but the growing popularity of the app has only made the issue tougher to manage. The more popular an app, the more the bots are drawn to it. The developers have taken measures to fight back, using user Facebook data to make it harder for bots to look real. If they can't stop bots getting on the site, they can at least empower the user to make it easier to spot them.
Prior to the latest update, two factors proved a big boost to the app: on the one hand it drew work and education info from users' Facebook profiles, while its longstanding function of identifying how many mutual friends two users have worked as a fallback. The mutual friends side remains stout but limiting in efficacy, it took the bots around two months to find a way to look like a real person in terms of education and employment.
The past few days have seen the next stage rolled out. A feature allowing users to recommend others is a touch questionable and somewhat stinks of creepiness in isolation. Actually, no, it stinks to high heaven in isolation. When put beside the prior moves and the linking of Spotify accounts, however, it paints a broader picture.
Spotify is essentially stage two, after Instagram, of trying to bring other social network identifiers into the fold in order to reduce the impact of spam. The problem with Instagram was that the service is already riddled with bots, proving useless in the fight although admittedly offering some social upside for real users.
Spotify doesn't have such an issue and the nature of the link, where users select their 'Tinder anthem' (a name so naff it could have come from this corner) from the online streaming service to display on their profile.
Every move Tinder makes to enhance the experience desperately has the empowerment of the user against the bots in mind. The greatest problem facing Tinder is its asset, a valuable young audience. The battle against the bots is the biggest threat to the service as this is the one thing that can easily move users who are happy to look elsewhere away from the service.
By enlisting its own userbase, it's using the only real weapon at its disposal. Tinder can't beat the bots in a pure war of attrition. Outsmarting the bots doesn't defeat but it can delay them. Time is what Tinder needs to buy over and over again. It needs to make life harder for the bots by forcing them to get smarter.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to ask a friend with actual taste in music to pick my Tinder anthem.