Dating Apps and Your Privacy – 2020-2021 may have been the year of social distancing, but dating apps saw a substantial increase in activity. Around the same time, there was also a 40% increase in online dating scams. To some extent, it’s understandable, since dating apps are designed for matchmaking, not security. This is also the subject of a survey by Datingroo. The study titled “Smartphone data access permissions for dating apps” explores the very prudent question: how much do dating apps know about us?
The key finding is this: online dating apps are primarily designed to connect users and not to protect them from cybercrime. In fact, the nature of these apps requires sharing personal information, which at least includes your name, pictures, and bio.
There are around 13 categories of permissions that dating apps ask of their users, including:
Popular apps like Tinder and eHarmony ask for relatively less permissions than, say, apps like Badoo and Plenty of Fish.
Some app permissions are necessary to make the best use of app features. For instance, several apps have launched features like external video calls during the lockdown to help singles connect virtually while maintaining social distance. Examples include the ‘Vibes’ feature on Tinder and ‘Date from Home’ on Hinge.
The question then is how to stay safe while dating online? Here’s what experts suggest.
Upload Unique Photos
To start, use different pictures on your dating profile than you do on your social media accounts. This makes it relatively harder to reverse image search on Google.
Say No to Fake Profiles
The yearning to connect is real, but never lower your guard. Online dating services are rife with fake profiles, so avoid connecting even if you’re the least bit suspicious. Warning signs include no bio (or generic bio), no line social accounts, and no pictures (or just one picture).
‘Stalk’ Them on Facebook
If you’re interested in a connection, check them out on social media to get a feel of the kind of person s/he is. It also helps to see if they are being genuine or not.
Of course, even if you connect with someone with a genuine profile, you should still be cautious.
Research also shows that dating apps are rife with scammers, predators, and all kinds of weird individuals. Some ask for money, while others try to gather personal information. Still, others push you to meet them. All these are red flags. Avoid them at all costs.
Report Suspicious Activity
Merely ignoring or avoiding may not be enough. When you encounter something fishy online, report the profile immediately. If you feel threatened or harassed, don’t hesitate to contact law enforcement agencies right away. In fact, since apps run on algorithms that can’t always detect unethical or illegal behaviour, it is part of your duty as a member of the online dating community to play your part in creating safe spaces.
Take Time before Sharing Personal Info
Finally, don’t get too excited when you meet someone that matches your preferences. Set boundaries from the beginning and take your time before divulging too much about your personal life. Genuine people seeking companionship take their time before endearing themselves to their online dates. While scammers and predators get frustrated.
In our post-Snowden world, most app users know that they are giving up their privacy when connecting online. That doesn’t mean that you make it easy for hackers and cybercriminals to scam you or cause any damage. Follow safety protocols and make your online dating experience as safe as possible.