Five dating app dilemmas answered by experts | Go out together

IIn an online Wild West populated by scammers and hackers, dating apps pose challenges beyond just finding a partner. It’s getting harder and harder to tell if your date is who they say they are, and that’s before you consider the security and data privacy implications of using apps on your smartphone. .

It’s hard to maintain privacy when apps like Hinge, Tinder, and Bumble need to collect data to match you with potential dates. Then there’s the data you share with other users — including your sexual orientation, age, and social media information — that could put you at risk if it gets into the wrong hands.

Here’s what you need to know about using dating apps safely and privately, while getting the most out of them.

Do you have to use your real name in your profile?

When creating a dating profile, you will need to display certain information for potential matches to be visible. But it’s pretty easy to track someone online if you know their first name and occupation, and you might not be comfortable with that.

Luckily, most dating apps cater to people who want to maintain some level of privacy online. Bumble, for example, lets you use initials, shortened versions of your name, or nicknames.

To show others that you are genuine and help you weed out certain scammers, many apps give you the option to verify your photos via biometrics. Bumble uses artificial intelligence (AI) for verification, which appears as a blue shield on someone’s profile.

However, this type of verification only proves that the verification selfie and profile pictures are of the same person – other details on the profile could be wrong. To take a well-known example, Netflix’s “Tinder Swindler”, Shimon Hayut, used real photos of himself and allegedly escaped these controls.

Hinge says the data collection is necessary to keep users safe by monitoring behavior. Photography: opturadesign/Alamy

For more privacy, RAINNa US-based non-profit organization that focuses on protecting people from sexual violence, recommend using different photos from your social media pages on your dating profile: “It’s easy to do a reverse image search with Google. If your dating profile has a photo that also appears on your Instagram or Facebook account, it will easier for someone to find you on social media.

Be careful not to post personal details such as where you train or your address. Matching group, owner of Hinge and Tinder, advises being “vague” when setting up your profile. Once you’re chatting with people, never provide financial information to anyone, a Match Group spokeswoman warns.

Advantages and disadvantages of moving conversations to WhatsApp

Dating apps don’t include end-to-end encryption – the gold standard of security protection that means no one can read your messages, even the app creator themselves – but the app WhatsApp messenger does. Does that mean it’s better and more private to move your conversations to WhatsApp?

Not really. Although your WhatsApp messages are completely private, it’s not as easy to weed out any bad behavior, which dating apps are good at monitoring to help keep you safe. Bumble and Match recommends keeping conversations in the app so they can monitor any harassment or other bad behavior.

The Online Dating Association also recommends that you stay on the dating service until you feel you know the person you’ve been matched with, and ideally after you’ve met them in person. “Dating services have processes for dealing with anything harmful that happens in a conversation,” says Hannah Shimko, director of communications and policy at the Online Dating Association. “In our research, we find that the majority of romance frauds take place on WhatsApp or SMS once the conversation has left the dating service and the scammer has freedom to manipulate.”

Dating app security features include Bumble’s “Private Detector,” which uses AI to detect and blur naked images. Meanwhile, Match Group uses AI to proactively detect language that could be harmful. If something is detected in a message, a feature asks, “Do you mind?” and encourages you to report it.

You can easily block and report people through most dating apps, before and after they’ve been matched.

WhatsApp also lets you block people, but there are other things to consider. Switching to WhatsApp requires exchanging phone numbers, which can be tracked through search engines or social media platforms, says Jake Moore, global cybersecurity adviser at ESET, a Slovakian company. “It’s very important to keep conversations within the platform until you’re confident.”

Should you link other social media accounts to your profile data?

It’s possible to link your social media accounts to dating apps, but should you? Most experts believe that sharing information about your life requires a cautious approach. It’s “very unwise” to link your social media accounts to your dating profile, says Tom Gaffney, senior security expert at security firm F-Secure.

a smartphone displaying the facebook logo is placed against a display of the meta logo on a white background
Cybersecurity specialists advise against logging into dating apps via Facebook, which allows additional data to be collected. Photo: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Some apps already give you the option to limit sharing of your entire social media profile, while exposing enough that other users know you’re genuine. For example, Bumble allows you to connect your Instagram, which view your last 24 photos but will not be linked to your account, reveal your social ID, or display any other information such as captions or hashtags.

At the same time, logging in via Facebook is definitely prohibited, as it allows the application to collect additional data, even if it is not displayed publicly. “If you create a connection with your Facebook account, apps like Hinge can access Facebook data, including your name, phone number, and marital status,” Gaffney explains.

With that in mind, create separate logins and usernames for your dating accounts using your cell phone number or email address when possible.

How can I see how much data dating apps collect?

Dating apps can collect large amounts of data and this is often shared with third parties such as advertisers.

Before signing up, it’s a good idea to read through the privacy policy of the app you’ve chosen and consider how your data is used. Hinge Privacy Policy, for example, describes how data collection is necessary to use the application and to ensure your safety by monitoring behavior. However, it also adds that your information may be used to “provide you with advertisements that may be of interest to you”.

If you give it permission, the dating app can collect your geolocation data as well as photos and videos. This information may be shared within Match Group companies.

Bumble Privacy Policy details the collection of similar data including device identifiers, location based on your IP address and your age to be shared with advertisers.

Once you’ve signed up, one way to find out how much information an app has about you is through a data file. subject access request. This is something that is possible under EU and UK data protection regulations.

It’s a good idea to make a subject access request after you’ve used an app for a few weeks, says James Walker, managing director of consumer data action service Rightly. Once you are done using the app, it is best to submit a removal request. “Under EU regulations, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)), the company must respond within one calendar month and confirm that they have erased all data they have about you,” says Walker.

What else can I do to stay safe and private?

Dating apps can be a minefield for security and privacy, but there are steps you can take to stay safe. To protect yourself from hackers, it’s a good idea to use two-factor authentication such as an authenticator app in addition to strong passwords, as well as a password manager if possible.

Dating sites themselves offer multiple features to help keep you safe. In Bumble, for example, there’s the option to use the app in “incognito mode”, which allows you to hide your profile and only appear to those you’ve swiped directly on.

You should also check 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 connect you with people nearby, but you can disable this feature in your privacy settings. the smartphone application.

In the end, it’s a compromise. In order to get the most out of a dating app, you will need to give up some of your personal data to the app itself. It’s then up to you to limit the amount of data you provide to the dating app, as well as potential matches.

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