How Private Is Your Online Dating Data?

Facebook Dating launched in the United States this month, marking the tech giant’s entrance into yet another online business—and raising concerns about how it can use the new data it gathers in the future.

Despite Facebook’s assurances that their data would be protected, online romantics may be wary of entrusting their dating details to the business.

Facebook has a history of privacy issues and makes money by selling targeted ads to users’ details.

The primary, well-known dating apps amass a wealth of personal data on their customers, and they know stuff that even Facebook doesn’t. On the other hand, aren’t these applications as reliant on ads to make money, which alleviates one issue for people concerned about their privacy. These businesses instead make money by offering subscriptions and updates to their facilities.

Many dating apps are free to use initially, but upgrading to a paid version also improves the experience. According to Lexi Sydow, senior market insights manager for App Annie, an analytics firm, users spent more money on the Tinder app in the first half of 2019 than any other non-gaming app in the world.

She says, “This demonstrates that mobile has become the de facto method for dating.”

Facebook, for one, has confirmed that it would not use any Dating data for advertising purposes. However, when supplying information to an organization, targeted advertising isn’t the only reason to think about privacy. If you use Facebook Dating or other well-known dating apps, you should consider where your data is going, who has access to it, and how it could be used.

What Do Dating Apps Know About You?

Dating apps gather a lot of information when you click, type, and catch up with online matches. There’s what you tell them explicitly, such as your name, profession, what kind of partner you’re looking for, and your sexual preferences.

They even collect a lot of information from your mobile. Most want to know where you are, and many want to know about your contacts, photographs, WiFi and network connections, and files on your laptop. (You can restrict some of the monitoring by changing the permissions on your phone.)

You give away data in less apparent ways when you use a dating app or several other apps, for that matter. For example, simply hovering over someone’s profile will expose your interest or lack of interest in the type of person you’re looking at, which may include things like their ethnic background or whether or not they’re smiling in their pictures.

You may never want to share thousands of personal details with a friend or family member, but by using dating apps, you are handing over that information to companies that can gather and store it. Alternatively, you might be sharing the details with a single company.

If you name a dating app at random, there’s a fair chance it’s owned by a single company called Match Group. The same company owns Tinder, Plenty of Fish, OkCupid, Match, Hinge, and hundreds of other dating apps. (Bumble, eHarmony, and Grindr are a few common alternatives owned by other companies.)

The dating apps of the Match Group reserve the right to exchange data with one another. That means that using a startup like a Hinge would not keep your data out of the hands of a large tech firm. In addition to the inherent lack of privacy that comes with agreeing to a broad data collection, there’s always the risk that one of the businesses involved will be sold, the privacy policy will be changed, or new applications for data will be discovered that you aren’t comfortable with.

Experts also say that no online database can be completely safe from hackers or human error.

In the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day 2019, OkCupid, Jack’d, and CoffeeMeetsBagel all attracted criticism for hacks or data breaches. And just one day before Facebook Dating launched in the United States, TechCrunch claimed that the company’s 419 million user records had been leaked online.

“Many of the apps we use to collect data about us, but the details you reveal on a dating app can be susceptible. And placing details on the internet means it can be leaked,” says Bobby Richter, Consumer Reports’ head of privacy and security research. “No matter what corporations do with your data, the fact that they’re gathering it in the first place poses a threat to your privacy, just as it does with any app or service.”

How Do Dating Apps Use Your Data?

Most discussions about digital privacy revolve around advertising, but dating apps show that it’s not the only way for tech firms to make money off of personal information.

“In general, dating apps are shifting away from ads and toward paid updates, special features, and subscription revenue,” says Monica Peart, vice president of forecasting at market research company eMarketer.

Match Group does make money from advertisements, but it accounts for a small portion of the company’s overall revenue. In 2018, the company earned more than $1.7 billion from subscriptions and paid services in its apps, compared to just under $53 million from outside sources, including advertisements.

Match Group’s vice president of marketing, Justine Sacco, says, “We’re not in the advertisement market.” “Advertising accounts for less than 4% of our annual revenue.”

When it comes to advertisements, Match Group claims that customer information is kept within the company. Sacco states, “We do not share personal user data with third parties for any advertising purposes.”

However, when the dating industry does use its data for marketing purposes, it is highly valued. The majority of online dating users are between 18 and 34, a desirable demographic for advertisers.

According to Jeff Greenfield, chief attribution officer and co-founder of advertising attribution company C3 Metrics, details about individuals in that marketing sweet spot are essential.

“From an advertisement standpoint, the data that comes from online dating is very rich,” Greenfield says. “Dating is about lifestyle changes for a lot of people. That’s a fantastic opportunity for curated ad experiences,” such as book, hair, weight-loss, and travel promotions.

Advertisers may also want to approach users who have stopped using dating apps, a sign that they are now in a relationship. “Perhaps you should start showing that person jewelry advertisements,” Greenfield suggests.

Read: Facebook Dating Wants To Help You Turn Your Friends Into Lovers

How Will Facebook Treat Dating Data?

According to the company, any data collected and produced by Facebook’s new dating service will be kept separate from users’ primary Facebook profiles. “All of your Facebook Dating activity will be saved. In a blog post, Facebook stated that the information would not be shared with the rest of the business.

In an email response to a series of questions from Consumer Reports, Facebook said that data collected from Facebook Dating would not be used for advertisement, developing or constructing artificial intelligence systems, or other business purposes. The company has also confirmed that it has no plans to provide a subscription service on the Dating site.

That isn’t to say that Dating won’t help Facebook make money or collect more details about its users.

Read Also: Best dating sites for women: get connected

When you create a Facebook Dating profile, the app asks for permission to access your smartphone’s location, one of the most useful data points for targeted advertising.

Furthermore, Facebook Dating does not have its version. Use it, open the daily Facebook app and go to the Dating page, where you can opt-in. People can spend more time on Facebook Dating if it becomes a famous place to find a date. More interaction with Facebook’s other features means more data collection and ad dollars.

“Facebook is an ad organization, and this may be a way to get people to use Facebook more frequently,” Peart explains. “As consumers spend more time on a website, the chances of interacting with advertisements increase.”

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