Are matches made in heaven? What to know about the privacy risks of dating apps.

Gal Ringel
4
min read

It’s that time of the year again, Cuffing Season, Valentine’s Day, and yes, there’s still Covid. We could all use some love and fun, but what should we consider about the privacy risks when using dating apps? <hl>Find out in the article below.<hl>

privacy risks of dating apps

If you’re currently using dating apps to find love or some fun, you’re not alone (well, you might be, but you get the point). For a few years now, dating apps have been extremely popular. So much so that they’re responsible for about 40% of US couples and a third of the UK ones. During the Covid-19 pandemic, dating apps’ popularity increased even further, as they became one of the only ways to meet new potential partners. The leading dating apps reported 1.5 million new daily active users this year, with OkCupid reaching a 700% increase in matched dates and Bumble reporting a 70% boost in video calls. As it turns out, social distancing has made many of us feel a bit lonely.

In addition to finding love or fun adventures, these apps also find out everything there is to know about their users to optimize their matches. Online dating is a data-driven business with next-generation user tracking capabilities. In hopes of finding ‘the one,’ we voluntarily share the most sensitive information about ourselves. The data gathering habits of these apps didn’t go unnoticed. 60% of online daters report that they are concerned about online dating privacy issues to some extent; still, it seems that many of these users are still more worried about traveling home for the holidays without a date.

Dating apps or data apps?

There are several reasons why users of dating apps are willing to share so much personal and sensitive information. First, in the value/information trade-off, dating apps offer perhaps the highest value of all. A partner for life, an evening, or the winter is more than enough value for most consumers. Maslow’s definition of intimacy and love as basic human needs seems like a powerful enough motivation for users to continue using these apps.

When the goal is to match us with the perfect date, sharing such personal details makes sense because we want our future date to be a solid match. Some online dating platforms’ have access to users’ Facebook profiles, pictures, chat apps, location, and more. Others are built to increase their data-collecting capabilities by encouraging users to share. OkCupid, for instance, provides users with a matching algorithm that is based on their answers to countless questions. These features and users’ motivation join hands to form a data-driven power couple.

Leaking love

Data leaks related to online dating make headlines all the time. Just earlier this year, four million users had their personal data stolen by hackers.

It seems that almost every leading dating site was breached at one point, including Tinder, Ashley Madison, and others. The leaked data includes the most intimate information you can imagine; users’ sexually explicit photos and messages, sexual turn-ons, drug use habits, sexual orientation and experience, infidelity history, exact location, home address, income details, and so much more. It’s scary.

To make matters worse, a recent report found that dating apps sell this information to third parties for advertising purposes, and advanced dating app users who downloaded the data collected by these apps were horrified to discover reports consisting of hundreds of pages about them, which sometimes included their chat history.

The combination of uninterrupted access to the most intimate corners of our lives and insufficient security creates an explosive data bomb that might come back to haunt us long after we’ve (hopefully) found true love. But while these risks are real, many (rightfully) prefer them over the alternative of staying lonely in these dark social distancing winter days.

Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?

The good news is that one no longer has to avoid using dating apps or other digital services, for that matter, to minimize digital risks. Especially now, we can all use some love and fun, so don’t let the risks outway the benefits. Instead, with the increasing awareness around data privacy and regulations like the GDPR and CPPA, we now have more options than ever to manage our data while using digital services. With online platforms like Mine, online daters can now enjoy the game, knowing that once they’re done playing or if they found their match, they can easily take back all their data from these apps and keep a lean digital footprint. Users should be able to track and delete the data they share whenever they want.

We might see additional regulations on dating apps in the future. Other sectors that deal with particularly sensitive information, such as financial services, are required to meet specific cybersecurity compliance standards. Why not protect our hearts the same way we protect our money?

By combining more robust security with data ownership, dating apps will finally offer users a comfortable path towards love. The rest will be up to cupid.