Given that these kinds of apps aren’t just drawing info from established profiles, the downside is that they prompt users to input extensive data about their preferences and predilections. Think about it – don’t put anything in a dating app that isn’t already public knowledge, unless you really don’t mind it becoming public knowledge (such as a preference for fly-fishing). You might find yourself pouring your heart out onto the profile page in a way you wouldn’t even do after five shots of mezcal. Plus, with OkCupid, there’s an extensive sexual preferences survey, which most people seem to find entertaining on a lonely Friday night. These kinds of apps give you more control over your privacy, just as long as you exercise some self-control.
4. Avoid geo-locating apps
Finding out that the hottie you’ve been watching for a week walks down your road every evening can add an extra frisson to the possibility of crossing paths. That’s why apps such as Tinder or Happn, which highlight the proximity of your matches, can make the dating game feel that little bit less like roulette. On the other hand, go on a bad date with someone in your locale and it’s a ball-ache to manage the anxiety that comes with worrying if you’ll bump into them ever after.
And then there’s the worst-case scenario – what if you attract a bona-fide Gone Girl who can figure out exactly where you live? Back in 2014, Tinder found itself in hot water when it was revealed that its geo-location method could enable users to be found right down to their latitude and longitude. So if you don’t want to be tracked down to your exact coordinates, choose an app that allows you to stipulate your general location without tracking your movements, such as Bumble, unless you approve otherwise.
5. Beware of dating service ads
It’s a sad fact that dating sites are awash with fake profiles – many of which have been created by the organisation itself. A 2013 investigation by Panorama found that some dating professionals were actually selling information culled from other online services to purposefully create profiles, which led to an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
But in a sneakier, tendermeets log in more complicit move, dating sites can actually create a profile with your data if you click on an ad for their services on a site like Facebook – the click equals consent.
6. Choose a service that doesn’t sell your data
The major players in the dating industry have extensive and established databases of millions of genuine members. But new services are springing up every day, and as they do, they are often buying their initial database from another company which provides a ‘white label’ database.
What’s more, there’s usually a sub-clause nestled deep in the terms and conditions that informs you that your information will be used by affiliates, and this is how they get around this being a simple breach of your privacy. So how do you find out if the service you’re using is doing this, short of reading all those ts and cs?
Well, stick with the major players: Tinder, Howaboutwe, CoffeeMeetsBagel – or with home-grown or elite start-up apps, such as The Inner Circle or HerSmile, that specifically stipulate they will never sell your data.
7. Avoid unsafe subscriptions
Here’s a conundrum. Research done on the user experience of dating services finds that individuals who pay for their products tend to be more invested in making genuine connections. At the same time, any online transaction carries a potential fraud risk, depending on how tight the security is surrounding its operation. So how do you know as user when it’s safe to splash the cash?