Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lift Those Virtual Rose-Colored Glasses & Face 6 Truths About Online Dating Site Privacy

Heart MosaicThinking about giving online dating a try?

You may want to consider the fact that whatever information you type – or photos you upload – into the dating site to build your profile may linger around for a while, waiting for you to come back.

You know, kind of like a creepy ex.

That’s right; the Electronic Frontier Foundation found that even though you may deactivate your dating profile at some point, like when you start dating someone, it doesn’t mean that your information is removed from the dating site’s servers.

In fact, they keep that information on file to make it easier for you to return - and that’s just the beginning.

Here’s the list of 6 things that the EFF suggest online daters keep in mind:

  1. Pressing “Delete” or “Deactivate” doesn’t really mean your information has been removed.
    While it sort of makes sense that they’d keep your information on file just “in case” things don’t work out with your new partner, we must remember that same information is subject to come back to haunt you if a court order ever calls for it. This includes any photos that you upload, too. But, before you freak out, keep in mind that Facebook doesn’t really delete photos either.

  2. Dating sites are not always as secure as we’d like to think.
    It wasn’t that long ago that a rather huge security flaw was discovered in the popular dating site, PlentyOfFish.com that exposed the personal data and login credentials for ~30 million users. Then there was the more recent exploit of a security flaw within the mobile app, Grindr that allowed the attacker to impersonate other users. Suddenly it’s not so comforting knowing that your information may be hanging around on dating site servers, huh?

  3.  Google may index your dating profile.
    While this isn’t always the case, it’s something you have to think about. What if someone you know happens to Google your name one day – like your boss? Are you ready for THAT [potentially awkward] discussion?

  4. Trying to discreetly find love online? Your pictures would tell on you anyway.
    If you were thinking on using a variety of tricks to shield your identity by using an alias or flubbing the information a bit, you may want to be careful what photos you use. Otherwise services like TinEye and Google Image Search would blow you out of the water by matching photos you’ve used before.

  5. Your data helps online advertisers sell you stuff.
    This shouldn’t be too much of a shock, especially if you’re on Facebook or use anything of Google’s (who openly admits they use your data to serve you relevant ads). If you don’t want this happening while you’re on the hunt for love, it’s probably best if you check the site’s privacy policy first.

  6. HTTPS is usually poorly implemented on dating sites.
    This leaves any data transmitted during your dating site browser session open for eavesdroppers to listen in on – messages, browsing history, or even account hijacking. Remember when Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter account got hijacked because he didn’t have HTTPS enabled on his Twitter account? Imagine that, only you’re Ashton.

With all of that being said, is there any way to keep your data safe and still partake in online dating?

A Few Privacy Tips for Online Daters

  • Read the privacy policy of whatever dating website you intend to use to see what their policy is regarding data deletion.

  • Avoid using your name and use a disposable email address that’s dedicated solely to your online dating activities.

  • Think twice before handing over your billing information to a dating site that calls for it. You may want to search for data breach history, user reviews, learn more about the security measures in place, etc.

  • Double-check the settings within your profile to make sure you’re only visible to logged-in users.

  • Consider using TinEye or Google Image Search to look for other instances of photos you intend on using in your dating profile before uploading them.

  • Look into using a plugin like HTTPS Everywhere for Firefox to automatically change URLs from HTTP to HTTPS.

Do you have any other tips to help improve privacy for online daters? Share your thoughts below!

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