Dating apps in 2021: technically safer, but threats still loom
Meeting the love of your life at a party seems like a thing of the past, with online dating experiencing a major boom, not least thanks to the pandemic. Tinder hit a record three billion swipes in a single day in March 2020, while OkCupid saw a massive 700% increase in dates from March to May of the same year. Amid this growing popularity, Kaspersky decided to replicate their 2017 research into the dating app landscape to see what has improved and what hasn’t in terms of security.
For their research, Kaspersky analyzed nine popular and highly rated dating apps with global user bases: Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Mamba, Pure, Feeld, Her, Happn, and Badoo.
What they found is that, compared to 2017, as dating apps have become technically more secure, major privacy risks remain.
In 2017, four of the applications studied made it possible to intercept data sent from the application, and many used the unencrypted HTTP protocol. However, in 2021, the situation has improved significantly. None of the applications studied use HTTP, and no data is sent if the protocol is not secure.
That said, significant privacy concerns remain with dating apps.
Most dating apps allow users to register their account on one of their social media sites (Instagram, Facebook, Spotify, etc.). If the user chooses to do so, their profile is automatically populated with information from that social networking site, such as photos and profile information.
Users are also welcome to share information such as their workplace or university.
All of the aforementioned data makes it easy to find social media accounts of dating app users and, depending on their privacy settings on those accounts, a host of other personal information.
Additionally, apps like Happn, Her, Bumble, and Tinder force users to share their location.
Some apps, like Mamba, share user distance to the nearest meter. Happn has an additional feature that allows users to see how many times and in what places their matches have crossed them.
Access to data such as the location of users, their place of work, name, contact details, etc., makes them vulnerable to cyberstalking or even physical harassment, as well as doxing (whereby previously private information is made public victim).
Additionally, Mamba is the only app that allows users to blur their photos for free, and Pure is the only one that prohibits users from taking screenshots of cats. This allows users to share their chats and photos without their permission, potentially for the purposes of blackmail or doxing.
However, many apps have added paid versions, and these include additional choices, often choices that can improve user safety.
For example, in the paid versions of Tinder and Bumble, you can manually choose your location in a specific region. Since only a region is available rather than a specific distance, it is much more difficult to determine the exact location of a user. And some paid versions of apps, like Happn, offer users an “incognito mode,” whereby users can hide their profiles from those they haven’t swiped directly and from strangers.
“It’s always difficult to find a balance between creating a digital presence and maintaining your online privacy, and the shift to online dating creates another area where users need to determine the best way to forge relationships. connections while protecting their security. Fortunately, what we’ve seen over the past few years is that dating apps are moving in the right direction, allowing users to connect more securely, ”said Tatyana Shishkova, security expert at Kaspersky.
When it comes to the future of dating apps, Kaspersky has several predictions – and hopes – especially when it comes to their security, such as the use of artificial intelligence to protect users from fraud and the creation of verified accounts. . You can discover these predictions and many more about the future of dating and love, as well as submit your own as part of the Earth 2050 project.
You can also read more about dating app security on Securelist.
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