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Data privacy: Online dating

Casual / adult dating is one of the worst dating niches for poor data practices. Due to the popular nature of the industry, companies can soon amass several million members. However, many brands are appalling with their handling of their customer’s data.

The following infographic highlights some of these areas and what you can do to protect your data and identity. If you would like to know more details then continue reading when you reach the end of the infographic and if there are areas that shock or disgust you then please consider sharing the image on your social networks. You have our permission to distribute the image as long as no modifications are made.

Data privacy infographic

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Assume your data will be hacked
How some brands store and protect your data is far from ideal. Every site has the potential to be hacked but you need your dating site to store your data in a way that the hack causes the minimum damage. When you sign up you have no idea how they store the data, you have no option but to trust them.

One of the major issues is sites not deleting accounts, some have been caught pretending to delete your data when you leave and many have no policy on how long an inactive account will remain on their database. Brands like to say we have over 50 million members but the reality of some of these sites is that number includes inactive accounts, fake accounts and partial registrations. They are grabbing all the data they can get and keeping it for their own vanity. This type of practice puts your data at risk. If you have not used a dating site for 5 years then don’t you think the data should be automatically deleted?

We suggest you should enter your data assuming that it will be hacked even after you have deleted your account. No matter how big a dating brand is you should not trust them. This way you have some protection when (not if) they are hacked.

Email address
Create a new email address with a free provider like Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail just for online dating. Even consider a new address for each site. Use this to register and use it to exchange messages with people you have met. Signing up with your work email such as james@microsoft.com is a crazy thing to do for so many reasons.

Password
As you can see in the infographic most breached dating brands have no idea how to store passwords correctly. When this is done correctly it’s almost impossible for a hacker to get your actual password. But many sites are storing it in plain text. You have to assume your dating site’s developers are idiots (not ours!) so create a new password for each dating site that you have never used anywhere else. Make it complex and store it in a password manager tool. Even a Post-it note on your desk is not as crazy as it sounds, someone is unlikely to break into your house just to get your password.

Profile picture
Your picture can give away everything about you if you’re not careful. If you use the same picture for dating as you do on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks anyone can use Google image search to find your social networks from your picture. Try it yourself, press right mouse button on your picture (in Google Chrome browser) and select, ‘Search Google for Image’. Once someone knows your social network accounts a huge amount of personal information is publicly available. At the moment Google image search doesn’t use facial recognition, it only finds similar pictures. So take a new photo just for your dating account and protect yourself better. If Google release a facial recognition version then may be it’s best not to have a profile picture at all.

Location
Your location should never be stored in a companies database to such a degree of accuracy that it would let a hacker know where you live, however the default GPS functions are very accurate and extra coding has to be done to approximate the data. This means that lazy developers could be giving your exact location away. It’s very difficult to know what has been done with your data so always assume the worst and check in your location away from home. Just a few miles makes it much harder for someone to find your home.

Not deleting accounts
The infographic includes a way of calculating if the claimed membership of a site is realistic. You can never be sure if your data is truly deleted so you need to decide if you can trust the company. It’s only when a dating company has their data hacked do you really know what they are doing.

Date of birth
Lie about it! Many banks ask for your date of birth for validation purposes so don’t give it to your dating site. Don’t lie about your age, just adjust the day or month a little bit. Our dating app ooOo takes a different approach and simply asks the user for an age. The user will have to update it on their next birthday but it’s a small price to pay for ultimate privacy.

Social sign-in
Many dating sites have the blue Facebook sign-in button. This makes it easy to get access to the site but some of your data is passed from Facebook to the dating site. This is really bad for your privacy. For example, real date of birth, location and most importantly a picture that is now on your dating site and social network. You have just given away all your personal data to anyone using the dating site. Never use that social sign in. Create a new email address and use that.

Terms and conditions
Read them. Many dating companies don’t break the law and any dirty practices are often written in the terms and conditions. If you find something you don’t like then decline and look for a different provider.

Summary
Hopefully the infographic and article have given you some practical ideas to protect your own data. Please consider sharing this article to increase awareness. If everyone knew how badly some dating brands looked after your data they would be forced to improve.


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