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How do dating services use the information they collect?

Dating services promise to find you love. But they also collect and share your personal data in ways that you may not expect.

It all starts when you set up your account or profile. Depending on a service's Terms and Conditions, and their Online Privacy Policy, you may be agreeing to allow the service to use the information you provide for more than just making a match. Dating apps and services often use their user information for their own marketing purposes. Some may even sell data to third-parties. This may include your photos, videos, name, gender, location, sexual orientation, as well as your likes, loves, winks, smiles, swipes, and more. Also, some online dating services collect your feedback after a date, which the company may use to improve your match rate, or for other reasons.

You might connect your dating profile to your social media accounts. If you do, the dating app may have access to data from those accounts. This data can be helpful in finding a match, but it may also be used for marketing or other purposes. If you are concerned about how your data may be used, you may want to read the fine print.

How do I protect myself from harassment on a dating app?

Many dating site or app users have experienced harassment, especially young women and people in marginalized groups. With access to so much personal data, online harassment can often turn into offline harassment, which can be much scarier.

To protect yourself from harassment, here are some tips:

  1. When creating an account or profile, do not use any identifying information in your username, or in your bio. This includes any part of your real name or birthdate. For instance, if your name is Mary Smith and you were born in 1989, then MaryS89 is probably not a safe choice for your username.
  2. Use a secure password that cannot be tied to your life. Something like a pet's name is often too easy for other people to know.
  3. Avoid using the same pictures or videos that you have used on social media platforms. It is wise not to use that headshot you posted on your Facebook profile on your dating profile. Other users could find your social media profile based on that picture, giving them access to more information about you.
  4. Do not share too much information too soon. Only give more information through a direct message or chat when you feel comfortable doing so.
  5. Look up your matches on social media, news articles, or in an online search. You may want to consider using a reverse image search, like the ones offered by Google or Bing, to make sure you are not being catfished or tricked by an impersonator.
  6. If you choose to meet your match face-to-face, drive your own car, or arrange your own transportation, to your chosen meeting place. Take your phone and let someone know where you are and when you will be home. Choose a public place to meet, and never divulge your home address until you feel comfortable.
  7. Beware of people who ask for money, say their spouse died recently, or want to get too close too soon.
  8. As always, trust your gut. It is usually right.

If you are being harassed or cannot get rid of an online dating predator, you can take steps to protect yourself. For example, you can record everything they say or do to you by saving messages, taking screenshots, or keeping notes on dates, locations, and harassing events. You can also block them. If they find you online outside the dating platform, you can block them on your social media sites and your phone. Depending on the harassment, you may want to consider contacting the police to show them what is happening.

Another smart step is to check the site's terms of service to see if they describe banned types of behavior. You may be able to report their behavior to the dating app or site, and it is a good idea to take a screenshot of the report. You might ask to have the harasser removed from the platform.

If the app or service is no help, you may want to cancel your subscription or membership and request to have your personal information removed from their website.

You can also get other help, such as tips for recording harassment from the National Network to End Domestic Violence. You might decide to talk to a lawyer about the laws in your state for online harassment and abuse. If the harasser is breaking any laws, you may be able to get a restraining order, get the police to make them stop, or file a civil lawsuit against them.

What can I do if a dating service misuses my personal information?

You may find out that a dating service used your personal information in a way you did not expect. For example, online dating services might use your profile for marketing, or use your pictures for advertisements, all without asking you.

If this happens, check the FAQs, support section, or policies, on the dating site to see if they have a complaint process, then file a complaint using that process. In the complaint, ask the site to remove the misused information. Notably, most dating app policies allow the service to use anything posted to the site at their discretion. Some apps may allow users to opt-out of certain uses, but this setting may need to be changed after signing up.

If there is no complaint process, or the service refuses to cooperate or help, then you may want to ask a lawyer for help.

How do I protect myself against online dating service data breaches?

Online dating services, like many other online services, are not always as secure as you may think. New or small niche services may operate without security measures such as HTTPS and an SSL certificate. Some may be open to hackers, unpatched system holes, and other weak points. As a result, the personal data you share may be exposed after a data breach.

Many services offer users custom settings to limit how their information is shared with others. Understanding the available options can help you figure out which service to use, as well as how much you want to share and what to share.

Here are some ways to protect your personal data from breaches:

  1. Research the service before you make a profile. See if it has had data breaches in the past and what has been done to fix them. Also, find out how the dating service stores and secures data so you can understand how your data is protected.
  2. Beware of in-app purchases that do not seem to fit with a dating app. This could be a trick used by hackers.
  3. Make sure the site itself is secure, with an HTTPS protocol and SSL certificate.
  4. Change your password every one to three months for better security. Also, make sure your security questions ask for information that is hard to find out.

Also, it is always a good idea to keep an eye on your credit report to make sure you have not become a victim of identity theft. Some credit agencies will notify you if a new account has been opened or after an inquiry.

If you need help with stopping harassment or the misuse of your personal information by a dating site or another person, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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