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Depending on your privacy settings, your profile can be indexed by search engines, and services like Google Image Search can connect the photos on your profile with your real identity, as Carnegie Mellon researchers demonstrated.
But it’s probably not much better that some online dating companies have some pretty deceptive and unethical practices when it comes to getting new users to sign up for their services via popular social networks like Facebook.
A CBC report about a married woman who found that Zoosk created a profile for her when she clicked on a Facebook ad made the rounds online, gathering sympathy from other users who were similarly duped and then had explaining to do when their significant others’ discovered that they’d accidentally signed up for a dating service.
Location data for matched users within a 25-mile radius was delivered directly to users’ phones, and it’s accurate within 100 feet or less, and researchers found that anyone with rudimentary programming skills could get the exact latitude and longitude for any Tinder user.
The company fixed the vulnerability, which would have been a good thing except that the fix created another vulnerability by replacing the latitude and longitude coordinates with precise measurements in miles to 15 decimal places.
The privacy implications are obvious, and are something that Grindr should take more seriously, especially because of the continuing frequency of attacks on LGBT individuals.
Luckily, not every privacy violation on the part of a dating app or website will leave your location vulnerable to stalkers.
We’ve known for years about the privacy compromises you make when you sign up for an online dating site or app, as Rainey Reitman reported for the Electronic Frontier Foundation a few years ago.
For instance, your dating profile and photos can hang around on the company’s servers for years, even after you cancel your subscription.
However, the login also made it easy for countless users to click an ad or take a quiz (an “IQ test” was cited by several users) and inadvertently create a profile on the dating site, which they’d only realize when they were bombarded with messages from matches.
Zoosk denied creating profiles without users’ permission, and explained that users have to explicitly grant permission for Zoosk to use their data during the signup process.
And popular dating services rarely prioritize strong privacy practices, which means they’re often riddled with vulnerabilities.