Millions of people are using online dating sites to search for love or connection, but users should beware: many online dating sites are taking short cuts in safeguarding the privacy and security of users.
It's the winter holiday season, which is when singles are reminded of how lonely they are.
It turns out that the holidays are one of the busiest times of the year for online dating — the dating website Zoosk has seen, over the last three years, a 26% jump in signups in the two weeks after Christmas.
While there haven’t been reports about a hack of the straight-themed sister app, Blendr, security experts speculate that it suffers from a similar vulnerability. While this isn’t the case for every online dating site, Ok Cupid profiles are public by default and indexed by Google.
For right now, we have to agree with Sophos security: if you’ve got a Grindr or Blendr account, you should close it at least until the security vulnerability is addressed; then keep an eye on the Grindr blog for news of a security update. It’s a simple privacy setting, but it can trip up even advanced users, as Wikileaks' Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange learned last year when his publicly-accessible Ok Cupid profile was discovered.
Even something as small as a unique turn of phrase could show up in search results and bring casual visitors to your page.
Some people don’t mind having an online dating site publicly indexed and searchable, but if you find the thought disquieting, then dig into your privacy settings and make sure that your profile is only viewable to other logged-in users on the site. Photo identification services like Tin Eye and Google Image Search make it a trivial matter to re-identify photos that you’ve posted online.
The most pressing concern is that information about you may be exposed to future legal requests that might involve a criminal investigation, a divorce case, or even a legal tussle with an insurance company.
Photos in particular can linger long after you’ve deleted them or closed your account due to many large websites hosting user-uploaded photos with Content Delivery Networks.
It’s good to familiarize yourself with the other available privacy settings regardless of which site you are using. Users hoping to create a barrier between their real identities and their online dating profiles might use strategies such as pseudonyms and misleading information in a profile to obfuscate their identity.