How Safe Is Your Personal Data on Dating Sites?

Most dating apps start tracking your activities the moment you open their homepage. Unsplash

Remember the massive data leak of Ashley Madison in 2015? A cyber attack on the “dating” site exposed 32 million married cheaters and their personal and financial information.

While you may not mind as much if a “regular” dating site shares your identity with the world, given how much they know about you, the potential damage of a data leak is equally crippling.

Last summer, a French reporter for The Guardian requested her data from Tinder. (European citizens have the right to do so under the EU data protection law.) She received approximately 800 pages worth of information that Tinder knew about her—from basic info like age, education and her number of friends on Facebook to sensitive things like the age-range of men she’s interested in, the Tinder profiles she had visited and even her chat history with every single match on Tinder.

You are lured into giving away all this information,” Luke Stark, a digital technology sociologist at Dartmouth University, told the Guardian last year. “Apps such as Tinder are taking advantage of a simple emotional phenomenon; we can’t feel data.”

As a result, people tend to disclose more personal information on dating sites than on other platforms.

A poll of more than 4,000 adults in the U.S. conducted by Axios in January showed that half of people don’t feel comfortable sharing personal information with dating sites. Yet, in order to find the right matches, they still overshare.

Cybersecurity experts warn that dating sites are no different than other kinds of platforms in the face of cyber attacks. In fact, the amount of sensitive information dating sites have makes them an even more provocative target to hackers.

“One added bonus that they afford hackers are more detailed data points that can help round out the target’s personality/user profile. These types of details and personal data are the ultimate weapons for hackers as they are anxious to strengthen their ammunition, improve their databases and ultimately wreak havoc however they can do best,” Frances Zelazny, vice president of BioCatch, a cyber fraud detection firm, told Observer.

Most mainstream dating apps start tracking your activities on their platforms the moment you open the homepage. Activity logs are mostly used by advertisers for targeting purposes.

Match.com, for example, uses 150 ad trackers on its platform, the highest number among major dating sites, another study by Axios found. Most dating sites use between 20 to 50 ad trackers.

eHarmony, which has 42 ad trackers, told Observer that it collects user data only for the purpose of optimizing matching. “eHarmony invests heavily in our security and fraud prevention infrastructure to ensure our users data is secure and anonymized. Our data needs are driven by our commitment to providing our users a best class match recommendation experience,” the company said in an email.

Tinder declined a request for comment by Observer.

How Safe Is Your Personal Data on Dating Sites?