Combining personal narrative, sociological analysis and long-term investigative work, journalist Judith Duportail marks a remarkable survey at the heart of the world's most popular and most lucrative demand for meetings. His discovery of the 27-page patent presented by the company is encouraging.
2 billion matches per day, 1 million at your place per week in 190 countries … The numbers requested by Tinder are running. Since its establishment in 2012, the world's most famous dating app has profoundly changed engagement relationships. Often accused of merchandising the underwear, Tinder is still very popular – in France in particular, the 4th country in which the application is the most downloaded! – and profitable. With a turnover of 800 million euros in 2018, the app of the Match group (which also owns Meetic) is the most profitable of the Apple Store.
"Evaluation of desirability"
Like many users, Judith Duportail [collaboratoredi[collaboratricedes[collaboratoredi[collaboratricedes Inrocks Note] joined a post-breakup phase, the same day he takes a gym membership. Become quickly addicted, the almost thirty year old connects to the app every day, discusses and meets certain matches. But she ticks when she learns from the curve of a press article that Tinder's algorithm attributes to each user a "note of desirability ". This score affects the selection of profiles offered on the smartphone. Everything therefore does not concern the geolocation and the case, as suggested by the start-up. From that moment on, the journalist undertakes a frantic search to find out Elo score, its note of desirability. Love under algorithm, published March 21 in Goutte d & # 39; Or, is the point of arrival of this investigation on the hidden side of modern dating. It shows how the influences of technology even predetermine our lives by exploiting our personal data.
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Step one for the journalist: understand what the internal ranking of Tinder entails. Elo Score is a term from game theory in mathematics. The app uses this scoring system to assign each individual to a category, on a series of secret factors to determine their "place" in the intimate market. "Every time your profile is presented to a person, a mini-tournament is played, like a soccer game or a game of failure"To do this, the algorithm uses all the shared personal data – knowingly or not – at the time of registration. It is often difficult to imagine how much information we share daily on social networks, our apps … The author has He was able to test their materiality and in 2017 he managed to get all his Tinder story. The 802 pages of personal information stored on their servers, received in PDF, make it the effect of a bomb. "Only having access to my Facebook likes and my correspondence, Tinder knows more about my best friends, my parents, my shrink if I had one and me", writes in an article published in guardian.
Exploitation of personal data and supervisory capitalism
This is a fact well known to researchers: artificial intelligence is capable of operating a much finer psychological targeting than any human. Witness to this is the – terrifying but indispensable – Magic Sauce Apply tool developed by the University of Cambridge. This artificial intelligence deduces the personality of an individual from his digital tracks, on Twitter or Facebook. These same techniques inspired the Cambridge Analytica teams, at the center of Trump's micro-targeting scandal during the last US presidential election. As you read Love under algorithmwe become aware (probably in the same way as the author during his investigation) of the immense ethical and democratic challenges that raise the exploitation of data people. Of course, the problem is far from new. But through Tinder, Judith Duportail forcefully exposes us the drifts of surveillance capitalism whose application is the most indicative example. No doubt because it touches the intimate.
Thanks to several years of detective work, the author penetrates further into the bowels of Tinder than anyone else. In the manner of an unexplored explorer who, thanks to pickaxe, patience and perseverance, manages to discover a treasure, puts his hand on the most complete interpretation of the algorithm: the 27 pages of the patent filed by the company. What we discover is uplifting: "Tinder reserves the right to study our physical, intellectual, psychological and permanent characteristics, as for astronauts on a mission." The difference in size: the astronauts are aware of it"the journalist squeaks. Elo score it is not based only on physical "desirability", but also classifies users based on their intelligence and interests.
Tinder reproduces "the patriarchal model of heterosexual relationships"
Thus, Tinder not only plays the game of surveillance capitalism, but also contributes to reproducing a conservative world view and traditional patterns of gender roles. The researcher Jessica Pidoux, quoted in the book, says that the patent is "of the patriarchal model of heterosexual relationships"For example, it could favor games between older men and younger women. All these results were denied by the company. But the strength of Duportail's book is to go through the extensive study of Tinder's algorithm. with his personal experience and knowledge of the social sciences of intimacy and romantic relationships, from a feminist perspective. Fragments of a lover's speech by Roland Barthes, disorders of affection, male gauze, the Self-objectification or the work of the sociologist Eva Illouz, the journalist sharply describes the reality of modern love affairs, his many expectations, the disappointments and the neuroses created or amplified by digital tools. "Using my personal data to determine who I will see on the app, Tinder decides for me who I can meet, touch, love. [C’est] an immense power over me, over my life, over my body."
Therapy by investigation
At the same time, Judith Duportail tells us, without false modesty, of her dependence on Tinder and her family at your place more or less silly. Throughout the book, an investigative therapy is granted. A assumed point of view (and rather amusing to read): "If I did the same investigation without explaining why the subject is so dear to my heart, without showing the back side of the scene, my life, my wanderings, maybe I would give more the appearance of objectivity, serious journalism. But I would be dishonest. I don't do this research by accident, it's not a topic that was assigned to me, it's my subject, and it's also a personal adventure."Ultimate feature of the book, not least: it offers a pleasant plunge behind the scenes of an & # 39; investigation.reflector has the merit of thwarting fantasies about investigative journalism.
On March 15, Tinder announced that he will no longer use theElo score in its algorithm. In a blog post, the company claims to have changed its system which would now be based primarily on activity (the more it is active, the more likely it is to be visible to other profiles); the "preferences" and the position. Despite this announcement, the opacity still reigns on the lower side of ours matches. "The love under the algorithm is a game that we do not know the rules"concludes Judith Duportail. Read her book is an essential first step to raise a corner of the veil on this"black box".
Love under algorithm, by Judith Duportail, in bookstores on 21 March 2019, 230 pages, 17 euros