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A single mistake made months earlier can haunt you.
It has to do with hidden information, or ‘metadata’, which is tacked onto most pictures by phones, photo editing software, and digital cameras.
A few years ago, image recognition on a large scale was restricted to law enforcement and corporate security. Free services like Tineye and Google Images will search billions of indexed images on the internet for identical or similar pictures.
This isn’t necessarily traditional hash or metadata specific – cropping or resizing an image is not a foolproof way to defeat this (as I show in the screenshot below, where Tineye and Google correctly identified my profile selfie which is substantially cropped on social media).
Even if your registered username isn’t immediately visible in a dating profile, it’s often visible in the URL of your profile, your profile photo filenames, or during communication with other users.
There are plenty of free and paid services which search and monitor social media and email accounts by username. It will rapidly scan popular sites and services for email addresses, usernames, names, and phone numbers to build a comprehensive profile of a person.