Bumble, their retention policy and my GDPR

Bumble launches "Dating Just Got Equal" campaign
I’m sure I have said this multiple times, I really want to like Bumble but every-time I try it again, I’m left with a bad after taste (like poor chocolate). I must learn dating apps don’t get better just worst.
Out of frustration, not with the people on the site (thats a whole different story). The mechanism was painful and annoying to say the least (not because of the females pick first).
So I deleted the app and requested my data from Bumble under GDPR law, as I have done for others previously.
Sent the request on 21st Jan, got the first reply on 23th Jan with the usual identity check. I replied on 24th Jan with the credentials which was made easy with my emails asking Bumble to change a profile element in late 2020. Then on 26th Jan I got this…
Hello,

Just to let you know, I have passed your email on to my supervisor here at Bumble who will get back to you as soon as possible.

We’re currently experiencing an incredibly high volume of emails, so it might take a little while longer than normal to get a response from a supervisor.

While we are working super hard to get to everyone, it may be tempting to send a chase regarding the status of your query. However, please bear in mind that we work on a queue-based system here. This means that sending an additional email may push your query further down in the queue and create a longer delay than we’d like.

Please know we haven’t forgotten about you and we really appreciate your patience during this busy time!

Joel
Bumble Feedback Team

Usually I would be on this like a hawk but I kind of forgot as I lost faith in OKCupid and others too. So Bumble sneaked under my radar till the 26th Feb when I finally received this email.
Hello,

Thank you so much for your patience in waiting for our response.

We’ve been dealing with an incredibly high volume of emails recently and have been working hard to get to your query.

Unfortunately, we are unable to proceed with your request as it appears as though your account was deleted more than 28 days ago.

In line with our retention policy, we begin to erase or anonymise your information upon the deletion of your account, following the safety retention window.

Please see our Privacy Policy for more information about how we use your data and your rights. You can read more about our privacy policy at: https://bumble.com/privacy

Please note that this only pertains to the profile registered to the email address you’ve contacted us from. If you have any profiles registered on Bumble with different contact details, please contact us using the relevant methods linked to those accounts.

Hila
Bumble Feedback Team

This answer absolutely drove me to rage because Bumble are hiding behind their retention policy. The only reason their retention policy kicked in is because they left it over 28 days. Its outrageous and I’m not standing for it.

I have given them 3 days to change their stance before I report them to the ICO. Although I still didn’t hear anything else from the ICO about Houseparty.

Expect to hear more soon!

Lets be deadly honest about whats happening behind the dating sites

I had hoped I wouldn’t be back dating again but thats the way things go. Stepping back out into the online dating world I’m shocked how worst things have gotten.

Now OKCupid is now very driven around the hot or not mechanism. If you are on the web site, it is possible to search via questions and a keyword. But thats about it. I got sick of Bumble which once again wants way too much attention and removed the app. I requested my GDPR data again, as I’d love to get to the bottom of the cisgender male issue I had.

However saying all this… It was good to see the buzzfeed post and the connected Reddit thread which was pointed to me via Herb Kim.

Before I say anything, sadly almost zero of this was a surprise to me. Its exactly why Herb sent it my way, having the past talked a lot about the problems with dating.

Anyway I wanted to run through some of the reddit thread and add a touch more.

“We used to create fake accounts and chat with users. It was everything from someone having a premium account that wasn’t getting responses, to bored employees.”

The amount of fake accounts on dating sites is a real problem. All the sites are affected by this problem but the site team blame fake accounts on spammers. Most people don’t realise the problem is actually being caused by the dating site its self. People don’t connect the fake accounts with being ghosted over and over again.

“The algorithms are less sophisticated than you think. … The main goal of the algorithm is always to get you to pay, never to actually ensure you meet somebody in real life, as much as we tried to lie to ourselves that it was.”

With everything we know about algorithms in recent times (bias). Its been mentioned so many times and I made the judgement that this is exactly the same as the birthday paradox.

“Female dating app users tend to sign off for the day several hours earlier than male users, which results in men who log in after about 10 p.m. generally not encountering many logged in female users. In order to keep these men feeling like there is genuine female activity on the site (and thus continuing to pay for memberships), dating apps can pay for entire armies of ‘ghosts.’ Ghost profiles use photos of real women, but are  operated by men, typically young men in their late teens and early twenties, living in France, Serbia, Ukraine, and Russia.”

The fake account problem again but targetted based on stats. Its something I’m aware of but I gather its different for different sites.

“Many apps seed attractive bots to keep people engaged. The bots will send/respond to a couple of substandard questions. ‘How was your week?’ ‘What are you looking for?’ and then ghost. Despite the ghost, the high of matching with a super attractive person who spoke to you is enough to get many people hooked and chasing the dragon.”

You start to spot a pattern with the chats. Heck you can spot pattens in the profiles. For example in OK Cupid, there is something I recently noticed with huge number of profiles which have answered the same 15 questions and in the same way. Their profiles were also pretty new.

“I worked as a software engineer for a dating site in the mid-’00s. Literally every single female profile was fake. They were ‘generated’ profiles using arbitrary data and paid-for lewd photos from various sources.”

I have actually seen packs of profiles (1000’s at a time) complete with photos and data you can buy to populate a new or young dating site. Most are grabs from different sources but when I last spoke to a person, they were suggesting some have been generated by machine learning practices.
As for the data, I have seen SQL and XML dumps but most are CSV and JSON.
Prices? I’m not sure but I gather a lot cheaper than getting real people to sign up.

“Most of the female users were fake. We would import thousands of fake profiles all the time to prop up the numbers and let the men think there were all of these women on the platform.”

I experienced this with Bumble a long time ago. For weeks I could get to through most of the users in my filters. Then suddenly there was a influx of model like profiles. They all had a similar style and shouted to me fake. That’s even before you read the small amount of written profile info, which could be a user or operator not bothered. Either way, its not necessarily someone I would be interested in contacting

“I ran operations for an online dating company (notably not affiliated with Match). IIRC, we were able to determine that it takes on average about three dates before sex happens (I don’t recall how we worked that out, I’m not a data analyst, but presumably it was some keyword-based algorithm looking at chat messages).”

Some people forget all messages between users are tracked and analysed. All those things you are sharing with another person is being logged and tracked. If you read some of the  terms, you will see they also sell the keyword data

“The most depressing stat…was the histogram of word count in messages. Something like 91% of opening messages were just one word ‘hey,’ and ~85% of conversations were just one exchange long (‘hey’ -> no reply ever). Looking at human, digital mating habits splayed out in data science form was really depressing.”

This is why I stopped reading OKCupid’s Dataclysm, I started to loose faith in humanity with the conversation lengths.

“My roommate used to work at one of the big dating apps and one of the issues they had was that their algorithm changed at one point to more emphatically enforce dating ‘pools’ where people who got more right swipes would only see profiles of people who get more right swipes, etc. With the idea being that it would put people in similar ‘tiers’ to actually match. One big issue they were having was…well, racial ‘preferences’ or sexual racism being pretty amplified as a result. Black women and Asian men especially were being overwhelmingly shuffled down the algorithm because there are a lot of people who will basically automatically swipe left on them as soon as they see they’re a Black woman or an Asian man, even if they were hot as hell.”

https://i2.wp.com/image.slidesharecdn.com/dating-against-humanity-ian-forrester-final-160214222131/95/dating-against-humanity-47-638.jpg?w=840&ssl=1

Its clear by algorithmic bias that users are boxed off from each other. This is why its important to be able to find your own way around the users rather than the way the algorithm presents things to you.
My recent ex made it clear I was found outside of the recommendations. If she stuck to the algorithm we likely would never have met. I know some of you might say, well not everyone has the time to manually go through the site. But if you look at this way, madness is doing the same thing and expecting different results.
I can’t tell you how good it was to read OKCupid members blogs and get in touch. Likewise I’ve been looking for abstract terms across POF to see where people have used it and how. Years ago I had a great conversation with a woman who included a circus skill in her profile. Unfortunately it wasn’t the Diabolo but the Poi is still cool.

My ex bf worked for the Yahoo Italy dating site back in the earlyish 2000s. His job was to pretend to be a woman, and message male customers just as their accounts were going to expire. This would encourage them to pay to renew their subscriptions. Once they renewed, he would ghost them.
He only lasted for a few months due to how unethical it was.

So common and I know a few people in the past who have done this. However recently I met a person who did this for a while for a small amount of money. They are paid to engage with users as they close to the end of their membership period then once they renewed their membership disappear/ghost.
Of course the profile is a fake one, sometimes they are made up by the person or are rotated by the dating site (this has limitations of course, where the ).

A couple met on the dating app I worked on.
Unfortunately, the man passed away and the lady returned to the app where they met for remembrance.
One day, a bug in the system made some profile likes to be sent again after months and she received one from her deceased boyfriend.
Her bug report was heartbreaking.

This is horrible but I have seen similar examples of ex-members receiving emails by accident or their profile coming out of a dormant state. Mistakes happen but this should never happen

Good luck to all the singletons dating in a pandemic, its rough out there and to be fair the dating sites could make things a little easier if they wanted to.

I still have a strong feeling this is all too important to be left to the private sector. Imagine if the covid19 pandemic keeps us apart for another year? Or the next pandemic? We can’t rely on the unethical practices described above to connect people for the future…?

As if perfect timing… The Guardian has a piece about this…

Falling fertility rates have been a problem in the world’s wealthiest nations – notably in Japan and Germany – for some time. In South Korea last year, birthrates fell to 0.84 per woman, a record low despite extensive government efforts to promote childbearing. From next year, cash bonuses of 2m won (£1,320) will be paid to every couple expecting a child, on top of existing child benefit payments.

The fertility rate is also falling dramatically in England and Wales – from 1.9 children per woman in 2012 to just 1.65 in 2019. Provisional figures from the Office for National Statistics for 2020 suggest it could now be 1.6, which would be the lowest rate since before the second world war. The problem is even more severe in Scotland, where the rate has fallen from 1.67 in 2012 to 1.37 in 2019.

Orientation is far from binary

Rainbow colours
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

I recently rejoined the dating world again, yeah I know…

Once I finally logged in and agreed to their new terms, I was able to get my old profile back partly using my GDPR request. Its interesting to see whats changed and how awful the dating apps have gotten (really badly money driven). Thats a whole blog to its self but I also found the options of orientation and what you are looking for really interesting.

In Okcupid I was given these options for who I am seeking.

Wow this is quite something. I generally say LGBTQA+ but I hadn’t really thought that much about the + aspect.

Being curious minded I started to look into the different spectrum’s. For example the affection orientation- sexual, romantic and friendship. Its all quite amazing but I couldn’t find a map, which would have made things a little easier to understand the relationships between each one. I did find that each one had its own flag however.

In Bumble

I made the mistake of trying to be too woke. by setting my status to cisgender male, thinking this means I was assigned male at birth and identify as male. On top of this I set my settings to seek females.

However I looking while swiping around, its clear I am getting men in my feed. Its clear its not a mistake as they self-identify as male and are not seeking other male. Even if they were, I’m seeking women. Of course I changed this twice and can not change it now. Bumble said contact them and of course I have and had disappointing replies.

Thanks for contacting Bumble

Hello,

Thanks for reaching out!

If you’re seeing users of the wrong age or gender, it might be that your filter settings are incorrect. Please check that you have selected the correct filter preferences in your settings menu.

If you are still experiencing this issue please let us know and we’ll be happy to investigate.

Emma
Bumble Feedback Team

Seriously, like I haven’t triple checked my settings! I tried a few other times but got the same reply, so given up. I always liked the idea of Bumble but found the montization model far too aggressive for a casual mobile dating user like me.

To this situation has the benefit of checking out how little effort cis-males are putting into their bumble profiles. Generally its some bad pictures and little to no text. Heck I have only seen a couple who even put some basic details down.

I always said Facebook was used for dating, why so surprised?

Facebook dating tinder

Facebook announces dating and some are surprised?

At F8, Facebook’s annual developer conference, Mark Zuckerberg announced a new dating service, simply called “Dating,” that will exist right within the social network’s own app. It will allow Facebook users to create separate profiles from their main Facebook accounts to pursue romantic connections. The two profiles won’t interact, meaning your Facebook friends won’t be able to see what your Dating profile says. And it should make dating app incumbents like Tinder and Bumble anxious.

Hummmm, really… from previous posts I wrote

When will social networking dethrone online dating?

Facebook is being used for dating… full stop!

Of course I certainly wasn’t the only one writing about this, you only had to look at the way people were using Facebook. I guess you have to give Facebook credit for understanding what its users were doing. That or the amount of data the likes of Tinder & Bumble were using; convinced Facebook that screw Cambridge Analytica, this is a way to get in on the action before its too late? Just as they started to rethink things?

Is Matchgroup worried? They should be, because there attitude for their customers sucks big time and Facebook may scoop in and convince those customers easily. On top of that Bumble is suing them for 400 million. Not a trivial amount…

Real shame about Siren…

It was slightly sad to see Siren a dating app where females get to browse profiles and ask questions of males in a safe enviornment; is no more.

Its a shame as it really was one of those dating apps I had hoped would gather the attention for good reason, bumble seemed to eclipse it for reasons I’m unsure it deserves. They certainly were blogging and saying all good things. I was just waiting for it to come to the UK and of course Android.

I especially liked this post about what a feminist app would look like.

Here at Siren, we like to consider ourselves feminists, and on the surface, it might be easy for us to claim to be a ‘feminist dating app.’ After all—we’re a tech company founded by fierce, empowered women of color, aimed at fostering intimacy and undermining the culture of objectification that runs through so many dating apps. But is this enough?

In light of current national and global political circumstances, we feel it is incumbent on us to declare that no, this isn’t enough. Feminism is an ongoing process, not a special club or a badge to wear with pride. So here are a few of the ways we are challenging ourselves to earn the title “feminist dating app,” and as always, we welcome your feedback on how we can better fulfill this mission.

Great words and I had planned on blogging about this much earlier in 2017, especially point 5.

MEN CAN BE FEMINISTS, TOO

We get it—all this talk about empowering women can be intimidating for men. Does our emphasis on the struggle for women’s liberation mean that we hate men, or respect them any less than our female, or nonbinary members?

On the contrary. We’ll be frank: men, we need you, too. There are conversations that will never catch on with the culture at large without male allies amplifying our voices, and let’s be honest—sometimes you guys are sexy as hell, to boot!

So if you are a man who dates women—or would like to—we’re glad you’re here, and we have created resources especially with you in mind.

Absoultely… Everything they said amplified and times it by Tony Porter

I imagined Siren was too early, but looking at the following story it seems VC and the startup culture were part of the problem? Its a crying shame but will keep an eye out on what they do next.

Another call for distributed online dating?

Wellbeing is more important than checking your dating app

Woman looks at her phone wondering

I was reading no bad dates just good stories and read the point about Bumble.

Bumble is full of feminists?

And this is a problem why? Sweet Jesus, a dating app that puts women in the driving seat, whatever next? Quick guys, delete it – don’t let the vagina army overthrow your seat in power.

I liked the concept of Bumble, love to meet more female feminists being one myself and know there was a massive backlash from the manosphere (read with caution!). But it should be a dating site I’m regularly on.. but I’m not?

When I first signed up it was early and there was little people from around Manchester on it. Then suddenly there was a ton of supermodel type women showing up. Most men would have loved it. But something didn’t seem right, I couldn’t tell for sure but it felt like quite a lot might be fake (from previous experiences and what I’ve read, it certainly seemed possible)?

Fake profiles is a quick way to keep people on the site and interested, or keep them using the app?

Fake match profiles

That was off-putting but then they changed the terms so if a woman messaged a man, had 24 hours to reply. Encouraging/forcing you to look everyday at least. This for me is not the habit I can not see a positive outcome from. I understand some of the reasoning but it feels unsustainable, at least to my mind? I check my dating profile only once or twice a month (to be fair this is very low), unless I’m chatting with a woman or planning a date of course. I have to question the benefit to the people using Bumble vs their ability to tell investers they have a large number of uniques per day?

I have to say checking your dating app everyday can not be good for your wellbeing; be it bumble, okcupid, tinder, grindr, hinge, pof, etc. It leads to cognitive burnout, which is something a lot of regular daters talk about in different terms. This is why the idea of a online dating break is a real thing.

Cognitive burn-out

Regardless, I’m willing to give it another try, but frankly if it’s not a big improvement I’m not going back; another good idea executed badly in faviour of business? Maybe its time for total distruption as mentioned previously?