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Russian authorities ask Tinder to hand over user data

Kremlin has long history of collecting information on love lives of its citizens

Oliver Carroll
Monday 03 June 2019 17:18 BST

Tinder, the mobile dating app, likes to boast of its success connecting users with “friends, dates and everything in between”.

Now, it seems Russian secret services are making an unlikely bid to be considered under the third category.

On Monday, authorities confirmed that the dating service had been reclassified as an “information provider”. Under Russia’s controversial anti-terrorism legislation, that means that the tech company will now be required to store and hand over user data: encryption passwords, geolocation details, photo and video content.

While Tinder currently encrypts messages, the company’s own terms state that user data can be handed over on request from security services. Russia's security services want to make that process automatic.

“[The Kremlin] already has the equipment to tell when users are accessing Tinder,” IT entrepreneur David Homak told The Independent. “But they are interested in more than that: they want access to content and geolocation data.”

Tinder has yet to comment on the change, but may be blocked if it does not comply with the request.

The prospect of the state gaining access to users’ intimate secrets has been met with outrage by users and privacy experts. But it is far from the Kremlin’s first foray into the dating game.

Two of the country’s most popular sites – Mamba and Wamba – were added to the state information register in 2014. The most popular service, Badoo, followed three years later.

The Kremlin also has a longer history of collecting information on the love lives of its citizens. During the Cold War, Soviet secret services used a range of tools – from honey traps to secret cameras – to blackmail adversaries at home and abroad.

Vladimir Putin’s own rise to power is closely linked to a bedroom blackmail scandal.

In 1999, Mr Putin, then director of Russia’s security agency, identified prosecutor general Yuri Skuratov in a video showing an intimate liaison with two sex workers. Mr Skuratov had been pressing for the prosecution on corruption charges of key figures around then-president Boris Yeltsin.

The video ensured Mr Skuratov would be removed from the case, and helped propel Mr Putin to the presidency within the space of a few months.

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