Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
Online dating is a growing industry in the United States, increasing in popularity and profits every year. An estimated 40 million Americans have tried online dating and dating sites will collectively gross $2 billion in 2012. The proliferation of dating sites has become a cultural phenomenon as millions of users flock to find romantic partners online.
In order to match you with others, online dating services collect data about you through forms, quizzes, preference questions, and even blood tests. This data may include:
|- your age||- drinking behavior|
|- sex||- hobbies|
|- education||- income|
|- profession||- religion|
|- number of children||- ethnicity|
|- religion||- drug use|
|- geographic location||- where you work|
|- sexual proclivities||- where you live|
After crunching the numbers using an algorithm, they’ll give you a list of people they think you may be compatible with. The services may make additional money by selling the data for marketing or advertising purposes.
Once an online dating service has your information, it has it for keeps. Even after you cancel your account, most dating sites retain your information.
Beyond data collection, retention and sharing, there are other risks that you will want to consider including rip-off scams, sexual predators, and damage to your reputation.
We discuss all of these and more in our new consumer guide, Fact Sheet 37: The Perils and Pitfalls of Online Dating: How to Protect Yourself .
If you're looking for love online, here are six tips to help protect your privacy:
- Read the dating site's terms of service and
privacy notice. Does the site provide online security (HTTPS)? Can you
delete your data when you close the account? Does it share or sell your data to
advertisers or other third-parties? What parts of your profile does it make
public by default? What types of privacy
setting and options does it offer to users?
- Share photographs with caution. Digital
photos may contain metadata that can reveal where and when the image was
captured. If this data gets into the wrong hands, it can be used maliciously. Sending
or posting a scanned photo is a simple way to ensure there is no metadata associated
with a JPEG image. Priveasy.com  offers
tutorials with step-by-step instructions on how to disable geotagging on your
iPhone camera or Android camera.
- Consider getting a free e-mail account
specifically for online dating purposes (from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft,
etc.). This will allow you to reveal information about yourself gradually and
appropriately. Better yet, if your dating service offers a blind e-mail
service, you should take advantage of this option.
- Respect your instincts. Trust your
doubts about prospective dates who don't resemble their pictures, people with
frightening personalities, and nagging suspicions that someone is being
dishonest. Don't provide your full name, address and phone number until you
have enough information about your prospective date to feel safe.
- If you see something, say something. If
does something creepy or weird, speak up. Say something. Contact the site to
clarify its practices and to register dissatisfaction. Post on Facebook. Tweet.
File a complaint with the FTC. Contact
the PRC and ask us for additional resources. Make some noise.
- Don't post anything you wouldn't want to see on the front page of the newspaper. Keep in mind that everything you say about yourself online stays online, for better or worse.
Again, for more information about online dating and how to protect your privacy, read Fact Sheet 37: The Perils and Pitfalls of Online Dating: How to Protect Yourself .