Hinge: A Dating App Developed by a Military Contractor

The Verge reports on one John Kleint, a former military contractor who’s now switched gears and is helping develop a dating app called Hinge:

When Kleint first started working at Hinge, in a DC office not far from his old defense gig, the first challenge was understanding his new data set — tens of thousands of completely harmless Facebook users. On a good day at his old job, nobody got hurt, and now, a good day is when Hinge receives an email from two soul mates who found each other using the service. Hinge doesn’t ask the usual array of questions like “Do you believe in God?” from its users, and instead relies on pre-existing signals to make assumptions about you. Solely by examining your friends and interests, the service can predict your political leaning, your age, your sexual orientation, and your race. Kleint works on the algorithms and machine learning techniques to make it all work.

“There are certain factors that go into a stable long-term relationship, and you can infer some of those factors from your friends,” he says. “There’s no explicit equation. There’s no guessing that likes should have 20 percent weight and attraction should be 30 percent.” Picking matches is especially hard since different people have different tastes. Hinge takes the opposite approach to some dating sites like OkCupid with overt “hot or not” meters and percentage odds of being a a match. And unlike dating services that simply pair you with somebody who’s also obsessed with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,Hinge uses that data to learn other things about you. Kleint won’t expose Hinge’s secret sauce, but points to a study by researchers at Cambridge University who created an algorithm that correctly predicts male sexuality 88 percent of the time, and is 95 percent accurate at distinguishing between African Americans and Caucasian Americans, without ever having seen a photo.

The app is in limited release so far: Washington D.C. and New York City, primarily.

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