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Hornet and Jack’d have options to obscure the exact distance between users’ phones, adding noise to obscure that trilateration attack.
The lingering issue, however, remains: All three apps still show photos of nearby users in order of proximity.
(That's the simpler but slightly less efficient method Hoang used to pinpoint my location.)To respond to Grindr's obscuring of the exact distance between some users, the Kyoto researchers' used a "colluding" trilateration attack.
They spoofed the location of accounts under their control and placed those fake users in positions that reveal narrow bands in which the victim "V" must be located.
"You can easily pinpoint and reveal a person," says Hoang.
"In the US that's not a problem [for some users,] but in Islamic countries or in Russia, it can be very serious that their information is leaked like that."The Kyoto researchers’ method is a new twist on an old privacy problem for Grindr and its more than ten million users: what’s known as trilateration.
Grindr, according to their paper, fails to even encrypt the photos it transmits to and from phones.
Jack'd exec Letourneau added that "We encourage our members to take all necessary precautions with the information they choose to display on their profiles and properly vet people before meeting in public."The Kyoto researchers' paper has only limited suggestions about how to solve the location problem.
They suggest that the apps could further obscure people's locations, but acknowledge that the companies would hesitate to make that switch for fear of making the apps far less useful.
For anyone in that neighborhood, my cat photo would appear on their Grindr screen as one among hundreds of avatars for men in my area seeking a date or a casual encounter.
Within fifteen minutes, Hoang had identified the intersection where I live. In fact, the outline fell directly on the part of my apartment where I sat on the couch talking to him.