Today’s dating applications are much safer from a technical point of view, according to cyber security company Kaspersky, but privacy risks still exist.
In 2017, studying four applications made it possible to intercept data sent from applications, and many used the unencrypted HTTP protocol.
However, in 2021, the situation has improved significantly. None of the applications studied used HTTP, nor did they transmit data if the protocol was not secure.
“Building a balance between embracing a digital presence and maintaining online privacy will always be a challenge, and the shift to online dating creates another area where users must determine the best way for them to establish a connection while protecting security. Fortunately, the facts we have seen in recent years show that dating apps are moving in a better direction and allow users to connect more securely,” commented Tatyana Shishkova, security expert at Kaspersky.
But still, privacy issues persist in dating apps. Most of the dating apps allow users to register their account to any of their social networking sites like Instagram, Facebook and so on.
If the user chooses to do this, then their profile is automatically filled with information from the social networking site, such as photos and biographical information. Users are also invited to share information such as their workplace or university. All the data mentioned makes it very easy to find the social media accounts of dating app users.
Additionally, apps like Happn, Her, Bumble, and Tinder require users to share their location. Some apps, like Mamba, also share details of the closest potential match distance with users.
Happn has an additional function that allows users to see how many times and at which locations they might meet their potential match.
Access to data such as a user’s location, workplace, name, contact information and others makes them vulnerable to cyberstalking or even physical stalking, as well as doxing where previously private information is published to damage reputation or harm the victim.
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What’s more, Mamba is the only app that lets users blur their photos for free, and Pure is the only one that prohibits users from taking screenshots of chats. This allows users to share their chats and photos without their permission, which could potentially lead to extortion or doxing in the future.
However, many apps have added paid versions, and these include additional options that can increase user security.
For example, in the paid versions of Tindr and Bumble, you can manually select your location to a specific region. Because compared to the use of short distances, location selection by region will be much more difficult to describe the user’s exact location. And some paid versions of the app, such as Happn, offer users an ‘incognito mode’, where users can hide their profile from strangers and potential matches.
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“They (dating apps) are constantly working to keep data safe, and, in the paid versions of many apps, users can do things like manually pinpoint their location or blur their photos. Hopefully in the future, this option will be available in all apps for free. The best thing users can do to stay safe is to be careful with the data they share about themselves, both on their dating profiles and in conversations.”
Regarding the future of dating apps, Kaspersky has some predictions and hopes, especially around its security, such as the use of AI to protect users from fraud and the creation of verified accounts.
To stay safe when using dating apps, Kaspersky experts recommend the following:
- Don’t share too much personal information like last name, job, photos with friends and so on on your profile
- Do not link other social media accounts to your profile
- Choose your location manually, if possible
- Use two-factor authentication, if possible
- Delete or hide your profile if you no longer use the app
- Use the built-in messenger in the dating app. Switch to another messenger only when you trust your partner. If you finally decide to do so, organize the chat in a way that keeps personal information safe.