Swipe Left on Insecure Dating Apps

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Ah, Valentine’s Day. Hearts and flowers and many individuals out there looking for love. If the current popularity of dating apps is an accurate indicator, it’s getting harder to meet your soul mate in today’s world without one of these digital matchmakers.

OK Cupid. Tinder. Match. Bumble. Coffee Meets Bagel. Ditto. eHarmony. You probably know people who met a love interest on one of these sites and have heard tales of many happy marriages. However, there are risks involved when your dating app doesn’t offer adequate data security or privacy protection. Ask anyone who joined Ashley Madison, a connection site for married individuals seeking a side fling, who then found their profile data exposed.

According to a 2016 Pew Research report, 15 percent of American adults say they’ve used a dating app. For some age groups, the number of users is higher than 20 percent. The two fastest-growing user segments are singles 18- to 24-years-old and 55 to 64-years-old. At least 5 percent of Americans who are married or in a committed relationship say they met their significant other online, and that number roughly doubles for those in relationships of five years or less.

Find Your Best App Match

You’ll want to consider several factors before you choose an app. Some apps target users with specific interests or orientation. Others feature the ability to swipe through dozens of images in seconds. Some have the reputation of being for relationship seekers while others are designed for those seeking casual connections.   

Stay Safe Online: Encryption and Privacy Policies Matter

It’s important to add one more consideration to your list when you make that app selection—the privacy policy. Read the privacy policy and look for explanations of how the app shares your identifying data and with whom. Many apps show matches nearby, so they require your location data. Also, see what happens to your digital profile if another firm buys the company. In a bankruptcy proceeding, the holder could attempt to sell customer information at auction!

Reading a privacy policy on your web browser is smart, but you’ll get extra points if you review the mobile device privacy details as researchers at Checkmarx did. Their security research team found what it called a disturbing vulnerability in Tinder’s mobile app. Neither version of Tinder’s apps (Android or iOS) used encryption to send images from mobile devices to corporate servers. Checkmarx’s research demonstrated how an attacker using the same network could monitor a user’s every move on the app. The hacker could interfere with private transmissions by controlling the profile pictures the user sees and even swap them for malicious content. Sophos Labs double-checked Checkmarx’s work and reached the same conclusion.

Stay Safe Offline: Common Sense Rules

If you take the leap and find a match through an app, read the company’s recommendations for first dates. Common sense should rule:

  • Meet in a public place
  • Use your own transportation to get to the location and back home
  • Don’t give out your address prematurely

One final statistic regarding online dating. If the match begins online, there’s a pretty good chance it will end that way too. Roughly half of all online daters—around 48 percent—end an undesirable relationship via text or email.

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