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Finding a users location on Grindr, Hornet, Jack'd etc the simple way

Want to find out where he is? I'm looking at you, cheating boyfriend! Don't want to spend half a lifetime learning scripting languages, JSON requests or capturing network traffic? Read on, and learn the good old "manual" method. 05th June 2015


How it basically works

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So your partner is out again hanging out with his mysterious friend Abigail. You don't think so though, because Abigail wouldn't leave those marks on his neck or that unmistakable scent on his clothes every time he comes home. Thankfully your partner has checked into Grindr (or one of the many, many other apps) for a quick update, so you know he is just two miles off. You can't tell what direction though. That's where a handy technique called Trilateration comes in. If you paid attention in school you'll know that trilateration is a cool geometry equation that allows you to to find the position of a fixed point when you only know its distance from you. Bet your math teacher never had this in mind though!

Three circles drawn on a map, showing a targets location

It works by noting how far away your target is from you, then at another location noting it again, and then repeating it a third time at a third location. See the image to the right for a visual example. This process, if done using very accurate information, can potentially reveal a person's exact location. There are basically two ways to do this on location dating apps. You can either send fake location information to the apps servers several times using some kind of location spoofing software, or you can do it the "manual" way. Yep, that's actually driving around and checking your app in three totally separate places (or asking your friends to look).

This kind of tracking relies on a couple of fairly obvious things. First, your target must have their distance set to show, otherwise you can't see how far away they are! Secondly, it relies on them not moving. If they are driving around or even walking while you are trying to pin point them, you're going to end up with some very funny and hugely inaccurate results.

The Manual way

Without the provision of hacking and sending fake location data to your apps servers, we can only really do the next best thing. So hop in your car, because you need to actually drive to these locations. That's after you've written down his distance from where you are right now of course. You'll also need the exact address or a Lat Long reading of where you are each time you stop and take a distance. The idea is to try and go to three different places that are totally different angles from him. If you go a few hundred meters each time and all your locations are South of him it won't work. The aim is almost to travel around him in a circle, so if you have a rough idea of where he is then its a big help.

Of course, if you've got friends who are willing to help you, this could save a lot of hassle. Just ask them for their location and what your targets distance is from them. This will save a lot of time, but it relies heavily on your friends telling you their exact location, otherwise the lack of accuracy will screw up your results. Not everyone is comfortable giving away their precise address or co-ordinates though.

The closer you are, the more accurate you can be with this. If you are within a few thousand feet you will be able to pin point him almost precisely, but if you are far off and can only get readings in miles you may have to roughly locate him first, and then repeat the process when you get down to feet level.

Recent Updates: Recently some apps have started introducing little features to try and thwart your efforts and make locating people harder. Grindr, from version 2 onwards will now only tell you a guys distance to the nearest mile, so if he's 2.4 miles off, all you'll see is 2 miles (But if you can capture the actual raw data sent to your app via a packet sniffer, the distance it sends here is accurate to the nearest foot). Hornet purposefully tells you a slightly incorrect distance, so tracking in this app will be harder, but still possible to within a hundred meters or so. To date (June 2015) no other apps appear to have implemented any safeguards like this.

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Putting the numbers together

Drawing your circles onto the map

So now you just have to plot the information on a map. You can be super old fashioned if you like and start drawing circles on a paper map, but I'd recommend you use the nifty radius tool at FreeMapTools.com Here you can draw radius circles around a location on your chosen map. So start by typing in your first distance reading from your target. Then, either find your location on the map and click it, or type an address / Lat Long into the box. Now you should see a circle around your location on the map.

Now do it again, with his second distance he was from you and your second location. Now you'll see two circles on the map. He is going to be close to one of the two points where those circles intersect, or overlap. Add in your third radius and you should see a point where all three circles overlap at almost or exactly the same point. This is where your guy is. Depending on how accurate your numbers are will determine how accurate this actually is, but trying it with distance readings accurate to within 0.1 miles got me to about 50 meters from a test targets house. Of course once you're that close its a simple case of wandering around and watching the last remaining feet drop down to virtually zero. Oh look, there's my partner. Hmm, better make that ex partner.

Hopefully this has been helpful to you in understanding how trilateration works and just how easy it can potentially be to track someone or be tracked on these apps. Of course with some cleverly crafted scripting, its possible to do this on a computer or phone in real time. If you don't fancy trecking around everywhere to grab the locations you'll either have to jailbreak your phone and install an app that lets you type in fake locations, or learn how to send JSON objects to the servers with fake location data. Maybe reading this will encourage you to keep your distance set to not shown? Thanks for reading.

Note: This article is provided purely for informational purposes only. The author cannot accept responsibility for its accuracy, or take liability for any consequence that arises from trying any of the principles described above. This may possibly be illegal in some countries, or just earn you a reputation as a creepy stalker (like the Egyptian police). Stay safe at all times. This article was originally published in May 2013, but has since been re-written to reflect changes in the way some apps work and the research of others. Applications change all the time, so beware that there may come a day when techniques such as this are unusable.