Keeping Our Users Safe

The news media has been full of stories recently about the vulnerabilities of other gay social apps. Business Insider’s headline read, “Security Flaw In Gay Dating App Reveals Precise Location Of 90% Of Users”.

If you live in a country which actively discriminates or criminalises against gay men, then the consequences could be severe. Another headline - in The Washington Post - spells out what that could mean: “Could using gay dating apps get you arrested in Egypt?”.

Our app has been downloaded all over the world, over four million times. We’re the most popular gay app in many different countries and we work hard to understand the different needs and situations around the world. Those countries represent all the different attitudes to homosexuality, from progressive to draconian.

We considered disabling the distance function in certain countries and leaving it as normal in the majority of countries. But even if you live in a progressive country, do you really want anyone to be able to pinpoint your precise location?

At Hornet we have always been aware that the major benefit of using a smartphone and GPS that allows an app like Hornet to show you nearby guys, is also a potential security risk. That’s why we took steps to protect our users’ locations long ago.

Like other apps, we allow you to turn off the “show my distance” feature, but very few bother to do so. People don’t generally want to mess around with changing settings. We believe while that’s an important option to offer people, there is a better alternative that keeps the app useful (showing you nearby guys) but protects you by default (preventing someone triangulating you).

So for a long time now at Hornet, we randomly obscure your distance as displayed in the app. If you remember from school how triangulation works you’ll know you just need to take a reading from 3 different locations. But if you do that with Hornet you will get 3 distances, none of which will be correct. That means your triangulated point will always be some other location. We do this for every user worldwide because we firmly believe everyone’s security is important.

If you are a Hornet user, visit our FAQ for more information.