In An online wild west full of scammers and hackers, dating apps pose more challenges than finding a partner. It’s becoming harder to tell who your date is, and before you consider the data security and privacy implications when using apps on your smartphone.
Apps like Hinge, Tinder and Bumble find it difficult to maintain privacy when you need to collect data that matches potential dates. The data you then share with other users – including your sexual orientation, age and social media information – could put you at risk if it falls into the wrong hands.
Here are the things you need to know about using dating apps safely and privately, while still taking full advantage of them.
Should you use your real name in your profile?
When creating a dating profile, you need to display some information to see potential mails. But it is very easy to track someone online if you know their first name and profession, and you may not be comfortable with it.
Thankfully, most dating apps cater to people who want to maintain a certain level of online privacy. Bumble, for example, allows you to use abbreviated versions of your name, or nicknames.
Allowing others to show that you are real and allow you to remove some scammers, many apps give you the ability to authenticate your photos via biometrics. Bumble uses artificial intelligence (AI) for authentication, which appears as a blue shield on someone’s profile.
However, this type of authentication only validates authentication selfies and the profile pictures belong to the same person – other details in the profile may be incorrect. To take a famous example, Netflix’s “Tinder Swindler” Shimon Hayut used his real photos and ignored these checks.
For more privacy, RAINN, an American-based non-profit organization focused on protecting people from sexual violence, recommends using a variety of photos from your social media pages on your dating profile: “It’s easy to find a reverse image via Google. If it appears on your Instagram or Facebook account, it will be easier for someone to find you on social media. “
Be careful not to post any personal details like your place of work or your address. Match Group, owned by Hinge and Tinder, recommends that you be “unclear” when setting up your profile. Once you’ve chatted with people, never give out financial information to anyone, a Match Group spokesman warns.
The advantages and disadvantages of moving conversations to WhatsApp
Dating apps don’t include end-to-end encryption – the golden standard of security which means no one can read your messages, not even the app maker – but the messaging app WhatsApp does. Does this mean that moving your conversations to WhatsApp is better and more private?
Not really. While your WhatsApp messages will be completely private, it’s not as easy to remove any bad behavior, which dating apps are good at monitoring to help you stay safe. Bumble and Match recommend keeping conversations within the app to monitor for any harassment or other misconduct.
The Online Dating Association also recommends that you stay on the dating service until you know the person you are dating, and ideally after meeting them in person. Hannah Shimko, director of communications and policy at the Online Dating Association, says, “Dating services have processes to address anything harmful that happens in a conversation.” “In our research, we see that most romance scams take place on WhatsApp or via text messages once the chat dating service is shut down and the scammers have the freedom to manipulate.”
Dating app security features include Bumblebee’s “Private Detector”, which uses AI to detect and blur nude images. Meanwhile, Match Group uses AI to actively detect harmful language. If something is found in the message, a feature asks: “Does it bother you?” And encourages you to report.
You can easily block and report people through many dating apps, before and after you meet them.
WhatsApp allows you to block people too, but there are other things to consider. Moving to WhatsApp requires exchanging phone numbers, which can be tracked through search engines or social media platforms, says Jake Moore, global cybersecurity consultant for the Slovakia-based company ESET. “It’s very important to keep conversations within the platform until you’re confident.”
Should you link other social media accounts to your data profile?
It’s possible to link your social media accounts to dating apps, but should you? Many experts think that sharing information about your life requires a careful approach. “It’s very silly to link your social media accounts to your dating profile,” says Tom Gaffney, chief security expert at security company F-Secure.
Some apps already give you the option of restricting you from sharing your entire social media profile, while revealing enough to let other users know you’re real. For example, Bumble allows you to connect to your Instagram, which displays your last 24 photos but does not link out to your account, does not reveal your social handle, or displays other information such as captions or hashtags.
At the same time, logging in via Facebook is a definite no-no, as it allows the app to collect more data even if it is not publicly visible. “If you’re logged in from your Facebook account, apps like Hinge can access Facebook data, including your name, phone number and marital status,” says Gaffney.
With that in mind, create separate login details and usernames for your dating accounts using your mobile number or email address whenever possible.
How can I see how much data dating apps collect?
Dating apps can collect large amounts of data and it is often shared with third parties such as advertisers.
If you allow it, the dating app can collect your geolocation data as well as photos and videos. This information can be shared within matching group companies.
Once you’ve signed up, one way to find out if an app is eye-popping is the data subject request. This is possible as part of EU and UK data security regulation.
“It’s a good idea to request access to the topic after you’ve been using the app for a few weeks,” said James Walker, chief executive of consumer data service Wrightly. Once you’ve used the app, it’s best to send a delete request. “Under EU regulation under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a company must respond within one calendar month and confirm that it has deleted all data about you,” Walker says.
What else can I do to stay safe and private?
Dating apps can be a security and privacy minefield, but there are steps you can take to stay safe. To protect yourself from hackers, it’s a good idea to use an authentication app in addition to strong passwords, and two-factor authentication if possible, such as Password Manager.
Dating sites offer many features to help you stay safe. In Bumble, for example, there is an option to use the app in “Incognito Mode”, which allows you to hide your profile and see only those you swipe right.
You should also look at the privacy settings to see what limits you can apply to your profile. Hinge users can customize their privacy settings to control what others see, while Bumble uses your location to help you connect with people nearby, but you can turn off this function in the smartphone app privacy settings.
Finally, it is a business closure. To get the most out of a dating app, you need to leave some of your personal data in the app. So it’s up to you to limit the amount of data you provide in the dating app and the potential matches.