Safety

Badoo Adds “Selfie Request” to Improve Safety for Female Daters

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Popular online dating service Badoo has announced the release of its latest feature “Selfie Request,” which aims to provide more security for female daters using the service.

The new selfie feature allows women to request a photo from a male user after they have received an initial message, so that they can confirm their potential match is genuine and using a real photo. From there, a male user can either send the requested selfie or decline. (The selfie is taken on the spot to confirm the match is genuine.)

Selfie Request is positioned to help the ongoing problem of catfishing in online dating, where users hide their identity behind fake profiles and photos in order to exploit other users. According to Pew Research Center, 54 percent of online daters have felt that someone misrepresented themselves on their profile. This new feature update from Badoo is intended to help avoid this recurring problem by addressing the online safety of females, who are largely the targets of catfishing as well as the main recipients of unwanted and harassing messages.

Tinder Finally Setting Age Restrictions for its App

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Tinder

Tinder, one of the world’s largest dating platforms, has been available to users as young as thirteen since the app launched almost four years ago. Tinder’s practice of letting teens use its app has been an anomaly in the industry, and one that hasn’t gotten as much attention as its reputation for quick hook-ups. But as of this month, the company has raised its minimum user age requirement up to eighteen.

This leaves many people asking: Tinder, what took you so long?

Online dating has been the subject of both opportunity and scorn in recent years. It's been a great way for people in different social circles to meet and expand their networks, but it has also posed a security risk, mostly due to a small percentage of users misleading other online daters by setting up fake profiles. Understandably, this has caused concern among parents whose teenagers have been using the popular dating app to find others to meet.

Tinder’s age verification is tied to Facebook, and the app has only let users who are younger than 18 see other users who are between the ages of 13-17. This would be fine in theory, but in practice it’s another story. This works only if the underage user has also set up a Facebook account with an accurate profile in which they reveal their real age. However, there is room for abuse if someone sets up a fake profile on Facebook, claiming to be eighteen or older, in order to continue using the app while underage.

Also understandably, this poses a problem for Tinder users who are reaching out to other users who they believe are age appropriate, only to find they are still teenagers. So while the restrictions are a move in a positive direction, it’s not a foolproof protection against fake profiles and catfishing.

All of the other popular online dating sites, including Match, eHarmony, and POF (Plenty of Fish) have had restrictions in place from the beginning when it comes to the ages of their users, and they all have a minimum requirement of eighteen. POF takes it one step further – if you are a female between 18-21, no guys over 30 years old can message or contact you over the service.

Tinder is attempting to make its platform a little more user-friendly, female-friendly, and age appropriate. It is also aiming to make daters of all sexual and gender identities feel more welcome. Recently, the company announced its plans to include transgender identification in profiles along with preferences.

So why did Tinder allow younger daters to use its app? Like all online dating services, it’s about the numbers. But since Tinder has a popular brand and large database of users now, it’s time they put the restrictions in place.

For more on this dating app, chck our our review of TInder.

New Dating App Stroovy Aims To Be The Yelp For Exes

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Stroovy Dating App

Despite criticism every time it surfaces, there’s at least one app idea that refuses to die. Stroovy is the latest in a long line of apps for rating and reviewing people - especially your exes. What makes this one different, however, is that it’s limited to people who use dating services.

“Finding the perfect mate can seem impossible,” reads the app’s website. “Stroovy provides serious online daters a community-led platform for peer-to-peer dater review.” The app encourages singles to “authenticate before you date” and “Stroove before you groove” - ostensibly for the purpose of making online dating safer, but it’s hard to believe users won’t be more attracted by the possibility of pettiness and scandal.

The idea is similar to Lulu, an app for women to review men, which stirred up plenty of controversy when it launched. Lulu has since transitioned beyond its original intent and Stroovy vows to be different by accepting reviews from users of all genders. Stroovy also promises to help users:

  • Identify, review, and verify people of interest on dating sites
  • Use facial recognition to find who they are looking for and link profiles from multiple dating sites
  • Get a reality check on dating behavior by seeing how they and others are perceived
  • Compare a dater's profile with what Stroovy users have to say
  • Avoid the "blindness" of blind dates and be confident that they are meeting the person they think they are

Here’s how it works. New users sign up by inputting basic information like name, gender, and birthday. To encourage an active community, users are unable to browse the Stroovy reviews until they leave a full review (including a photo) of their own. Don’t get tricky with the pics - the app uses facial recognition to prevent the uploading of photos that don’t have faces in them.

The process of writing a review is surprisingly extensive. You’ll be asked, amongst other things, to detail where you met the person, what your relationship is, and for a variety of classic dating site details like marital status, body type, and height. You’ll also be prompted to write a short review of your experience with that person.

Of note is the fact that Stroovy’s reviews are not entirely anonymous. A user name and avatar appear alongside each review, and users are required to sign up with a phone number so duplicate accounts cannot be made. Reviews are also not limited to former flames. Anyone - friends, family, coworkers - can leave a review for someone they know.

BeautifulPeople.com Hacked & Personal Data Sold

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BeautifulPeople.com was Hacked

BeautifulPeople.com boasts that it offers “online dating for beautiful people only,” but it’s currently making headlines for something far from pretty. The site was recently attacked by hackers who put the personal info of 1.1 million members for sale on the black market.

According to security expert Troy Hunt, the data belonged to members who joined before July 2015. Information like weight, height, job, and phone number was reportedly compromised, though no passwords or financial details were included.

"The breach involves data that was provided by members prior to mid-July 2015. No more recent user data or any data relating to users who joined from mid-July 2015 onward is affected," Beautiful People said in a statement. "As far as we were aware, at that time [in December 2015], only the two security researchers who informed us of the breach had access to this data."

Chris Vickery, who originally discovered breach, told the BBC the firm acted quickly after he notified them - but it was already too late. "They published it openly to the world with no protection whatsoever," he said.

Like the Ashley Madison hack – which exposed 39 million people hoping to cheat on their partners – there’s a sense of schadenfreude to the news. A part of us enjoys seeing “bad” people (or in this case, people who have an inflated sense of their own goodness) get knocked down a peg. We call it karma, but what it really is, is a warning.

Hacking is a scary phenomenon no matter what, and doubly so when it’s done with the intention to shame. Online dating is now so commonplace that many users have grown lax about how they do it. Theoretically we know we need to protect our personal information, but how much effort do we really put into it? Our data is bought and sold constantly, whether we know it or not, both legally and illegally. Let the Beautiful People hack be a reminder to prioritize your privacy.

The good news is, the company says the leak has since been patched. But there’s no way to reclaim the data that’s now circulating. Victims of the hack must now take precautions like changing passwords and monitoring for identity theft.

Beautiful People said all affected members are being notified about the breach. You can also use Troy Hunt’s HaveIBeenPwned.com to find out what, if any, personal information about you is publically available online.

Badoo Launches Photo Verification for Safer Dating

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Badoo Photo Verification

How do you know if that cute guy you matched with on your dating app is really who he says he is? The hard truth is – you don’t, at least until you meet in person.

One consistent issue with online dating (and social media in general) has been users setting up fake profiles. Often, these fake profiles are used for catfishing – or targeting and scamming other users or members of the same service. Online dating site Badoo has decided to address the problem with its own newly-launched photo and profile verification system.

Many online daters in the U.S. have heard of OkCupid or Tinder, but they haven’t heard of Badoo. Despite this, it is a global giant in the online dating industry with 300 million registered users in over 190 countries, bigger than all of the popular U.S. dating services – even Tinder. Plus, the company has 400,000 signups every day, mostly in Europe and South America.

According to Badoo, the new verification system will hopefully eliminate catfishing from the service altogether. When a new user signs up, they are asked to verify their profile. Badoo then sends them a request for a photo – and the new user has to perform a specific gesture that Badoo assigns. (The company notes that it is a unique and specific gesture, not a common one like a “thumbs-up.”) Badoo will then make sure it's you by looking at the other photos on your profile along with the unique pose. You may even be asked to do another pose. The whole process takes less than a minute since the company has 5,000 moderators worldwide checking them out, so it’s pretty efficient.

If a user chooses not to verify a photo, they could be excluded from other users’ views who only want to connect with verified profiles.

The new verification system is another step in Badoo’s strategy to appeal to female online daters. With the verification system, Badoo intends for female daters to feel more secure in signing up and using the service, since they are often the ones who are targeted with fake profiles and messages.

This seems to be a strategic move. The company recently bought popular female-centric dating app Lulu, where women rate the men they date for other women, as a referral or warning system, depending on how you look at it. Badoo’s head Andrey Andreev hired Lulu’s founder Alexandra Chong as President of Badoo, and the company intends to set up a U.S. office to attract more of a presence in the States. According to TechCrunch Andreev also has invested in Bumble, another female-friendly dating app.

The new version of Badoo is available in the iTunes store, Google Play, and the Windows store.

Reports Of Rape Linked To Online Dating On The Rise

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Reports of online dating-related rape have risen by more than 450 percent in six years, according to the UK's National Crime Agency.

Between 2009 and 2014, the number of reports of serious sexual assaults during first face-to-face meetings following initial contact online rose in the UK from 33 to 184 – a nearly sixfold increase. With around seven million UK residents currently using dating sites, that number is a small fraction of total online encounters – but its growth is still a reminder that safety is an important concern when dating online.

“Early analysis indicates that the online dating phenomenon has produced a new type of sexual offender,” reads the NCA's report on the subject. “These offenders are less likely to have criminal convictions, but instead exploit the ease of access and arm-chair approach to dating websites. This is aided by potential victims not thinking of them as strangers, but someone they have got to know.”

Becaue online relationships tend to progress more quickly than those that begin offline, online daters often have a heightened (and misleading) sense of emotional intimacy. By the time they meet in real life, they falsely believe they are at a more advanced stage of the relationship than they really are. In turn, they are comfortable taking more risks than they normally would and can find themselves in vulnerable situations. That, the NCA posits, is why attacks are most often committed during the first face-to-face meetings.

Looking deeper at the stats, the majority of the victims were women. Eighty-five percent of those reporting rapes were female and 15 percent were men. In spite of safety warnings issued by dating services, police and rape-prevention groups, many opt not to hold their first dates in public spaces. As a result, 71% of the alleged rapes were committed at the victim's or offender's residence.

The National Crime Agency strongly emphasized that the increased risk associated with certain online dating behaviors does not mean blame should be placed on victims.

"A rape victim is never at fault and we do not want the circumstances in which these assaults take place to cause any victim to doubt that," said Sean Sutton, Head of the NCA's Serious Crimes Analysis Section. "Sexual assault is a crime, full stop, and we want victims to feel confident reporting it to the police."

For more information on preventing rape and sexual assault in an online dating context, the NCA recommends visiting Get Safe Online, an initiative supported by the government. The initiative's extenstive guidelines can help daters stay safe when meeting face-to-face.