New Study Finds Dating Apps Have More Access to Personal Information Than You Think

Safety
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Dating app users often don’t realize how much personal information they are giving away just by signing up. But Datingroo, a U.K.-based online dating research company, has released a new study that shows exactly how little privacy most dating app users have.

Datingroo studied the ten most popular dating apps from Tinder to PlentyofFish to eHarmony, examining 45 personal data access points in 13 categories such as precise location, other accounts on the device, network connections, and modification or deletion of the contents on USB storage, and found some surprising results.

Among all the apps, Badoo and PlentyofFish have access to the most data in user’s devices (92% of all access points studied). Combined, they have more than 522 million users worldwide, which means they have access to an enormous amount of information. Coffee Meets Bagel has the fewest users (7 million), as well as the least data access.

All of the dating apps studied – Badoo, OkCupid, PlentyofFish, Tinder, eHarmony, Match, Coffee Meets Bagel, Elite Singles, Zoosk, Lovoo – have access to USB storage, photos, media and files. Ninety percent of the apps are able to delete the contents of USB storage, and 80 percent have access to WiFi connection information and the user’s location.

The research is even more alarming. Seventy percent of apps can find contacts and accounts on the user’s mobile device, and 60 percent have access to the camera and phone status. Thirty percent have access to the microphone to record calls and audio, and ten percent (Badoo only at this point) are allowed to read, send and receive user’s SMS messages.

While the study points out that this personal information can be accessed by the dating apps, the major threat posed is that your data security is at risk from hackers and others looking to game the system. If a hacker breaks into the POF platform, for instance, she could have access to all of the data the company can collect (even if the company chooses not to collect certain data). It potentially threatens not only your privacy, but your financial and other personal information can be stolen or used against you, and your location can be tracked.

There are steps you can take to ensure your safety:

  • Establish a strong password. Datingroo points out that many users don’t create strong passwords, making them more vulnerable to hackers. Avoid the obvious – birthdates, family member names, hometown, etc.
  • Avoid taking photos or keeping files of important documents on your phone – like driver’s licenses, social security cards, and passports.
  • Check your privacy settings often. Check your privacy settings not only when you download a dating app, but as you open and use it. Some dating apps gain additional permissions when they provide updates, so be sure to check and reinstall the app if you’re uncertain how to opt out.