Have You Considered the Privacy Risks of Online Dating Sites?

Have You Considered the Privacy Risks of Online Dating Sites?

Have you considered the potential privacy risks when using online dating sites? If not, you’re not alone...

Have you considered the potential privacy risks when using online dating sites? If not, you’re not alone. However, it is imperative to consider how carefully your private information and communications are being safeguarded and what might happen if your information and/or communication are disclosed.

As several high-profile users have learned the hard way, many sites save content and leave users vulnerable to having their personal data exposed. Even skilled privacy attorneys can’t undo what has already been released on social media platforms.

Uptick in Online Dating

Online dating has become increasingly popular in recent years. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 30 percent of American adults reported using an online site or app in 2019. In response to COVID-19, even more people have turned to the Internet to form romantic relationships over the past year.

Due to the nature of the sites many of which are based in foreign venues, users of online dating sites often share sensitive information. This information may include personal data, such as sexual orientation, religion, or political affiliations; user data, such as what profiles are viewed/searched; and user content, such as personal photos, videos, and messages. 

As journalist Judith Duportail wrote in the Guardian, when she requested her personal data from the dating app platform Tinder, she received at least 800 pages worth of information. The data included her Facebook “likes,” links to her Instagram photos, her education information, the age-rank of men she was interested in, how many Facebook friends she had, when and where every online conversation with every single one of her matches happened, and the text of those conversations.

Privacy Risks of Online Dating Platforms

While online dating platforms provide new and convenient opportunities to connect with other people, their reliance of technology has serious privacy implications. As reported by Vox, dating apps have suffered several high-profile security breaches in recent years. In 2019, a bug in the chat feature on the dating app Jack’d made it possible to view users’ images sent as “private” on the public internet. In 2018, a security flaw caused by issues on both the Facebook platform and Tinder’s login system allowed researchers to take over user accounts using just their phone numbers.

While all data breaches can lead to serious headaches or worse, the fallout from a dating site breach can be particularly harmful. Examples include blackmail, doxing, financial losses, identity theft, emotional damage, reputation harm, revenge porn, and stalking, among other consequences.

In light of the privacy concerns associated with online dating platforms, users should review a website’s privacy policy and terms of service before opening an account and then make an informed risk assessment. Below are several important considerations:

  • What steps are taken to secure your data? It is important to verify that dating sites are taking steps to properly secure their site. For instance, if data is not encrypted, there is a risk that “eavesdroppers” could access your data when using a shared network.
  • Is your data shared with third parties? Users should also understand how their data will be shared outside the platform, which may include being shared with the platform’s business partners or outright sold to outside marketing companies.
  • How long does the site store your data? The longer a dating site stores your data, the greater the risk that it will be improperly disclosed.It is important to review a site’s data retention policies to ensure that your information is kept only as long as the site needs it for legitimate business purposes or as required by law.
  • Will your data be deleted if you close your account? Once you close your account, you don’t want your data to be stored for any significant amount of time. Privacy policies should provide that user data is deleted upon request or account closing.

Users should also take steps to protect themselves. Easy steps you can take include signing off after using a shared computer, choosing a robust password that can’t be easily guessed, using two-factor authentication, and keeping your log-in and password private.

Key Takeaway

Because the United States lacks a national data privacy law, there are no clear standards that businesses, including online dating sites, must follow. Accordingly, online dating users must be proactive in understanding how their sensitive data is (or is not) protected. If your information is compromised, there are ways to minimize the fallout; however, it is largely impossible to put the genie back in the bottle.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Ron Bienstock, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.

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AboutRonald S. Bienstock

Ronald S. “Ron” Bienstock joined Scarinci Hollenbeck after running his successful boutique entertainment, and intellectual property law firm, Bienstock & Michael, LLC for more than 30 years.Full Biography

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