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The Privacy Risks of Online Dating

August 20, 2018

​If you believe online dating advertisements, your perfect romantic match is out there, just waiting for you to connect. What dating sites don’t advertise is all the other risks that might be waiting for you, too. Online dating has the potential to compromise your privacy, your reputation, and even your personal safety. So, let’s look at the risks and what you can do to keep yourself safe while looking for that special someone.

​Any kind of social media account carries some privacy risks, but online dating is different from Facebook or Twitter because users are encouraged to share sensitive personal details publicly with people they don’t know. For example, you wouldn’t share your sexual preferences publicly on your Facebook page. But an online dating app will ask you for details, and then their software decides who that information will be shared with.

​It could be extremely embarrassing if a friend or co-worker accidentally saw intimate details about you as they browsed an online dating site. But there are also plenty of people waiting to intentionally exploit that information. During the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, a Tinder user posted screenshots of Olympian’s dating profiles on social media, and a journalist publicized information about some Olympians’ sexual orientation gathered through the dating site Grindr. People have been known to capture and publish screen shots of online dating conversations, either to brag about their dating prowess or to embarrass the other person. Researchers have also found that many online dating apps have serious security issues, giving hackers the opportunity to steal your personal information for identity theft, phishing, or even extortion. (Remember the Ashley Madison data breach?) And because dating apps often disclose location information, they can put you at physical risk from stalkers as well.

Despite the risks, if you’re yearning for love in the digital age, online dating may be a good answer. Just follow some commonsense rules to protect your online privacy:

  • Manage privacy settings and exercise caution, as you would with any social media application.
  • Because many online dating apps don’t encrypt transmission, experts recommend that you don’t use them over public Wi-Fi networks.
  • Malware can be embedded in photos and other files, and phishing scams abound on these sites, so install security software on your devices to scan for malware.
  • Never list your place of work, where you went to school, or other information that could help someone locate your other social media accounts and gather more information on you.
  • You don’t know who might see your profile, so don’t post anything you would be embarrassed to have a boss or co-worker see.

​In upcoming articles, we’ll talk more about personal safety, and we’ll look at some of the scams around online dating. In the meantime, have fun looking for love, but swipe right for privacy!

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