Thursday, January 8, 2015

Recovering Tinder messages from users who've deleted their accounts

Okay, I've used Tinder.

However, we'll put that aside and get more technical here.

I ran into the situation where a person had given me some info to add her on Facebook, so that we could continue the conversation, but then deleted/disabled her Tinder account!

For those who don't know, Tinder will remove such a person from your matches and you cannot look at the conversation history anymore. Well, that sucks!

So here's a really, really, technical solution.

For security reasons, Android will not let you look in /data/com.tinder. Inside /data/com.tinder/db/tinder.db is a copy of all of the messages you've sent and received in the app. So we need this file, but without a rooted phone, the only way to access this data is to access it through Tinder, which would require us to modify and recompile Tinder ;-). If you try to use a file manager to browse /data, nothing will show up.

At this point you can root your phone, which requires unlocking the bootloader, which has been claimed to void your warranty, and naturally, when you unlock the bootloader the phone is wiped for security reasons.

So rooting is really not an option for such a silly little thing. You might as well give up on this potential person, even if they are your soul mate? :-(

The workaround is to enable ADB USB debugging in Android, and take a backup using the adb tool on your computer, while it's connected to the handset. Do not set a password!

adb backup -f my_backup.ab -apk -shared -all

And confirm from the phone that you want to allow this backup.

At this point you'll have a huge file called my_backup.ab. You'll need to extract this using the Android Backup Extractor which will require Java7 to be installed. Then you can run:

java -jar abe.jar unpack my_backup.ab my_backup.tar

Which will create a standard .tar file called my_backup.tar.

We can then extract this using tar

tar -xf my_backup.tar

Then navigate to the folder that's created, apps/ then com.tinder/db

From here, open the database (a SQLite DB) using sqlite3 command:

sqlite3 tinder.db

Let's view some messages!

select * from main.messages LIMIT 10;

Anything look familiar here? It should!

Okay so this is all out of order. What we are looking for are the most recent conversations. The field we are interested in is called 'created', so let's order messages by that!

SELECT * from main.messages ORDER BY created ASC;

54ef7ac30147af1b7d000192|53ef05f9f6061a2f32055da4||2014-02-08T19:28:06.922Z||Lol I am, do you want to add me on Facebook? Suzy Queens|

The names and unique IDs have been changed to protect everyone involved. But hey! There's the message I've been looking for! A match made in heaven. The person will owe you a drink for all of the hard work you've done ;-)

So my advice would be, if you get a phone number or last name from someone you are interested in...take a screenshot right then and there...Tinder will hide the conversation if that person then leaves Tinder or unmatches you. Otherwise, use this method if you are nerdy, or just can't take a hint. ;-)

24 comments:

  1. Sadly this doesn't seem to work anymore. Now the deleted messages are really deleted from the database, so I lost a phone numbre I really wanted :(

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  2. after a while of trying it was successful !
    I was given a phone number and than she deleted her account/unmatched me
    I use an android rooted device.
    in that case what you need to do is download a file browsing app like "root file browser"- than you can reach the file tinder.db
    (for me it was in data/data/com.tinder/databases/tinder.db)
    than you need to transfer this file to your pc (using the in app "share" button, or copying the file with the app to sdcard and find in when you plug your decive by usb to the pc).
    then- download "sqlite browser" to your pc.
    open the file tinder.db with it,
    than go to "browse database" tab-
    and go to masseges.
    there all your texts from all time should appear :)
    Thanks very much Jay you made my day

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    Replies
    1. Glad it helped! The "sqlite browser" method is much more user-friendly, I'm just a Linux guy so the commandline was my first through.

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  3. This worked for me! I was able to retrieve tinder messages from 2014.

    First off, you do not have to unlock your bootloader in order to root your phone. I know this because I have a phone with a locked bootloader and it's rooted.

    Second, if you have a rooted phone then you don't need ADB and a computer to get to the messages. All you need is a root file browser app to access the tinder data directory like root explorer and a SQL editor like SQLite Editor to open and access the file.

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    Replies
    1. Glad to hear it's easier than I wrote here! I'm considering adding an "easy way" section, since this article gets a lot of hits but likely by people who are aren't super tech-savvy.

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  4. Hi - my phone in encrypted (it's a work phone) so my backup file is empty. Does this method work with encryption?

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    Replies
    1. As far as I know, it does not. These days I have encryption and run a non-rooted phone so it'll be hard for me to test. Plus I learned my lesson and screenshot things I want to keep!

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  5. Hey a youtube video would be fantastic!!!!

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    Replies
    1. I've gotta pass on that...I've got too many cat videos on my playlist :)

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    2. i think many would appreciate it if you made a video, and i think that it would be good advertasing for your channel, because who dont want too look at cute kittes to calm themselfs after trying to fix their tinder? its win-win

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  6. I am confused about the adb tool on the computer. Honestly If you could make a step 1,2,3 that would be great! I am just face palming right now... hahaha so please help me!

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  7. I have my adb tool. After that I am lost. If anyone could help that would be great. I don't know what I am doing hahahah

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    Replies
    1. As jeff stone wrote above, you get get around adb by using a root file manager or something like that.

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  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  9. Hi, I jailbroke my IPhone and downloaded the 2 apps: 'RootExplorer' and 'SQLite'. I would love some help and instructions on how to do this with an iPhone if possible. Thanks so much in advance for all the knowledge:)!

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    Replies
    1. As I'm coming from the Android world, can't help you much. But once you have the DB or .sqlite file on your machine you can use http://sqlitebrowser.org/ to read the file.

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    2. Hi Elsie - Did you manage to do this on your iPhone? I have an iPhone too, so I'd just like to find out if what you did is worth a try. Please let me know. --Thanks!

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  10. I'm able to do all the process but there is no Tinder folder... Lots of apps are there but not that one

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  11. Can you do this if both users deleted their accounts???

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    Replies
    1. Meaning you closed your account? If you haven't uninstalled the app, the message DB should still be there. Even if you uninstalled it, I think Android will preserve the app data including the DB file.

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  12. can somone please explain this in easier way? english is my second language and im a no good at phones n stuff
    thank you

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  13. first you say "At this point you can root your phone"
    then you say "So rooting is really not an option for such a silly little thing"
    like what?????? so i shouldnt???? it would be much easier you you did step to step
    because im getting all confused

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    Replies
    1. why would you write stuff that you dont need to do? i really need som help here
      thanks

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    2. It's been awhile since this was written. I don't think it's worth your while to root a phone just for this. For many people it's not an option, as other apps or corporate policy will refuse to work on a rooted phone. Some other commenters have stated it's possible to grab the Tinder DB without root. This is not something I've tried and I've moved on to other projects, so some more Google searching is your best bet.

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