Hidden risks of Dating Apps
The hidden risks of Dating Apps for adults are worth thinking about. Dating Apps are proving to be a personal information overshare nightmare for many users, with very few even realising it. The pandemic, along with forced restrictions, resulted in a huge increase in popularity and take up of dating apps. The number of swipes on Tinder increased by 11% last year, with the daily number of swipes surpassing the 3 billion mark for the first time, as early as March 2020. This is hardly surprising when you consider how difficult it became to meet people in a real world setting.
Increased activity on dating apps are accompanied by increased risks for users, due to the amount of personal information they share. Many will not have considered any risks before sharing so much personal information on a dating app. However, if you just pause for a moment and think about all the personal details required to set up your profile, you may quickly realise how intrusive the platforms are. Given the amount of information people freely share on dating apps, it's really easy to see what makes dating apps an ideal territory for potential harmful threat actors.
Personal Information Overshare
On many dating apps users need to enter their age, where they live study, or work. They enter details about hobbies and interests. They share images of themselves, and connect to social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram or even Spotify. Once connected, this permission allows the latest photos and favourite music to be shared from social media accounts to a dating profile. While there are no direct links to a user's social media account, even if such account is used to log in to the app, the information displayed on a profile is often enough to track someone down on different social media sites.
Depending on how the user has configured their privacy settings on social media, individuals with sinister intentions may be able to gain access to a wealth of private information about their dating matches, such as their home addresses and personal photos. This leaves users very vulnerable to cyber-stalking and Doxing. Doxing is what happens when private information is made public with the intent of shaming or harming an individual. There are also other dangers including –
- Identification of the user by third parties.
- Theft of login credentials.
- Some of the most popular scams include asking users to transfer money under various pretexts, asking for “nudes” to be sent which are then used as blackmail in “sextortion scams”, as well as sending links to phishing websites, where users are tricked into entering their bank card details.
Whether or not a user may fall victim to any of these scams, is largely dependent on the security measures implemented in the app, and the kind of vulnerabilities it has. A study conducted by Stanford back in 2019 established that online dating was already the most popular way for couples in the United States to meet. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a huge uptake in remote dating. As dating apps continue to grow in popularity, there are increasing efforts to improve app security, particularly on the technical side.
Affording so much personal information to complete random strangers, or those who may have malevolent intentions, is never a good idea. Unfortunately, many of these risks are very difficult to avoid, as this information is actively used to create potential matches.
This creates a form of Catch 22 paradox. Online dating appears to be the only show in town for people looking to meet a potential partner right now. There does not appear to be any other alternative to meet someone, which ultimately leaves an end user exposed and vulnerable.
currently there are a number of recommendations put forward by Kaspersky on how to improve the personal information dilemma on dating apps
- Users should have the choice to hide both their photos, and GPS locations from potential matches.
- Accounts will should be verified in order to prove a potential match is who they say they are, not a criminal.
- It is important to be able to restrict screenshots being taken of profiles and messages by unverified account holders.
- Permanently delete all chat logs.
- There should be constant reminders to new users about the risks of sharing too much personal information with strangers.
- AI should be able to to protect users from fraud, stop abusive, or harmful content and prevent sensitive subject matter from being shared inside or outside the platform without permission.
While these facilities are currently not available, there are a few things you can do right now to stay a little safer on dating platforms.
- Don't share too much personal information (your last name, employer, photos with friends, political views etc.).
- Enter your location manually where possible.
- Use two-factor authentication to protect your count.
- delete or hide your profile once you stop using the app.
You can find more information about protecting your personal information here