Dating apps still prone to stalking, doxing amid growth during pandemic, a new study says

July 2, 2021 - 3:51 PM
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Image by amrothman via Pixabay

Threats of stalking and data privacy risks still loom among online dating apps amid the growth of users during the pandemic, a study by a cybersecurity firm showed.

Due to the tough lockdowns last March, people resorted to online platforms to spend quality time with their loved ones and meet new people, including dating activities.

Tinder reached a record high of three billion swipes in a single day in March 2020 and OkCupid similarly saw a massive 700% increase in dates from March to May last year, according to data from Fortune.com.

In an analysis by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky, it learned that nine popular, high-rated dating applications are still vulnerable to privacy risks due to the number of information users released to them.

The apps analyzed are:

  1. Tinder
  2. Bumble
  3. OkCupid
  4. Mamba
  5. Pure
  6. Feeld
  7. Her
  8. Happn
  9. Badoo

When compared to 2017, the cybersecurity firm found that the apps became safer from a technical standpoint.

“In 2017, four of the apps studied made it possible to intercept data sent from the app, and many used the unencrypted HTTP protocol. However, in 2021, the situation has significantly improved. None of the apps studied use HTTP, and no data is sent if the protocol is not secure,” the study said.

Most dating apps, however, are allowing users to connect their accounts to social networking sites (Instagram, Facebook, Spotify, etc.), which in turn can expose their personal information such as photos, contact details and place of work to other people.

“All of the aforementioned data makes it easy to find dating app users’ social media accounts, and depending on their privacy settings on those accounts, a host of other personal information,” Kaspersky said.

The cybersecurity firm also warned about the risk of revealing the user’s location, citing policies in apps Happn, Her, Bumble, Mamba and Tinder.

The also further warned Mamba’s feature of blurring other people’s photos for free and Pure’s feature of prohibiting users from taking screenshots of chats.

“Access to data such as users’ location, place of work, name, contact information, etc., leaves them vulnerable to cyberstalking or even physical stalking, as well as doxing (whereby previously private information is made public in order to shame or harm the victim),” it said.

Tatyana Shishkova, security expert at Kaspersky, said that she hoped that these dating apps will work to connect users to one another in a safer way.

“They’re working to keep the data secure, and, in the paid versions of many of the apps, users can do things like manually specify their location or blur their photos. Hopefully, in the future, these options will be available in all apps for free,” she said.

In the meantime, Kaspersky recommended the following steps to avoid doxing and other privacy breach:

  •       Do not share too much personal information (last name, employer, photos with friends, political views, etc.) in your profile
  •       Do not tie other social media accounts to your profile
  •       Select your location manually, if possible
  •       Use two-factor authentication, if possible
  •       Delete or hide your profile if you are no longer using the app
  •       Use the built-in messenger in dating apps.

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