How to protect your privacy on dating apps


How to protect your privacy on dating apps

Back in 2019, we did a deep dive into what you can do to protect your privacy on dating apps while still matching with people. Now that it’s 2022, we have updated this article with the latest news and tips.

Dating apps are now as much a part of modern courtship as going to the movies or buying flowers. But dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, or Bumble, present significant privacy risks. This Valentine’s Day, take some time to protect your privacy on dating apps.

Online dating is a privacy nightmare because it’s a Catch-22. You are obviously looking to entice someone and therefore want to create a level of intimacy, but you are speaking with someone dating sites you have never met. It requires a delicate dance of revealing enough information about yourself to beguile without sharing too much. And you need to accept information from people on the other end of your conversation, hoping they are acting in good faith.

Scammers know this. They have begun hacking these apps or using social engineering to access people’s most sensitive photos or to trick people into sending payments. According to the US Federal Trade Commission, romance scams have been increasing steadily, and over $547 million was lost to these scams in 2021.

Beyond scammers, many of these dating apps use the data you give them to target you with ads. When you consider that hundreds of millions of people use dating apps around the world to meet new people, there is a lot of data to be mined. Furthermore, many dating apps have been less-than-responsible stewards of the data entrusted to them.

But don’t give up on love! (It is Valentine’s Day, after all.) There are ways to limit your exposure online.

What data do dating apps have?

Most dating apps use the data they collect from you to target you with ads. That’s how they can continue operating while offering their service for free. (It’s also why you often can get access to stronger privacy controls if you pay for a subscription to a dating app.)

When you consider the types of sensitive information many of these apps require you to share when you create an account, this data collection can be concerning. As an example, before you can use Tinder, you must share:

  • Your phone number or Google or Apple account
  • Your first name
  • Your date of birth
  • Two photos of you
  • Your location by turning on location tracking on your phone
  • Your sexual orientation

And nearly all dating apps encourage you to share more information, from your place of work to your favorite hobbies to your ethnicity. They also monitor any activity in their app, including swipes and conversations. Obviously, a dating app can use any information you share with it to target you with ads.

Many dating websites also contain dozens of trackers. Ghostery found that Match Group dating services (including Match, Tinder, and OkCupid) had up to 36 trackers on their websites, including trackers from Facebook and Google.

Dating app data breaches

Most dating apps are still relatively new. Tinder launched in 2012, yet it has already suffered several data breaches and has been caught improperly sharing user data. This is sadly the norm among dating apps, which is important to keep in mind as you decide what personal data to divulge in these apps.

Back in 2013, cybersecurity experts discovered trileration attacks ((similar to triangulation) that Tinder allowed third parties to discover users’ exact location, down to within a few hundred feet. Tinder resolved the issue by only specifying their users’ location in increments of miles, making the location data much less precise. In 2014, experts found the same flaw in Grindr. Grindr claimed to have resolved the issue, but in 2016, researchers in Japan could still determine Grindr users’ location. Then, in 2018, another security expert discovered the location of Grindr users, including ones that had opted out of letting Grindr share their location data.