This blog post was written by Bruce Snell.
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, are you ready? Have you bought the perfect gift and booked an intimate dinner? Maybe a nice romantic movie like Zoolander 2 or Deadpool? Or maybe, like many people out there, you’re still looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right. The advent of dating websites and apps have made it much easier for busy people to find someone they connect with, but it’s also made it much easier to overshare personal information without even thinking about it. McAfee recently conducted a survey of 4300 adults ages 18-54 who use or have used dating websites and/or apps to see how people are looking for love (or a close approximation) in 2016.
So what tools are people using?
Based on the responses of those polled, many people liked to cover their bases by using multiple apps and websites while looking for love.
While eHarmony came in 3rd overall in the U.S., it was significantly more popular with women at 42% than among men with 31%. Tinder also scored higher with younger people. More than half (55%) of those surveyed under the age of 25 have used Tinder.
I’m often asked what are some things people can do to stay safe online, and one of my top answers is “limit the amount of information you share online”, so naturally we were interested to see what type of information people were sharing during the online dating process.
What are people sharing in their profile?
Understandably people want to make a good impression so they can make a connection, often leading to sharing a lot on information in their profile. Many people share their photo (79%), occupation (59%), birth date (57%) or email address (49%). Some people were willing to share even more information including 26% who share their phone number and 16% who share their home address! A potential cybercriminal only needs to create an account on a dating site to start harvesting this information, all of which can be used by for identity theft.
What do people share once they’ve made a match?
Once people have connected with a potential match, the likelihood of sharing information increases across the board. The number of people sharing their occupation increases to 67%, sharing phone number increases to 66%, email address to 64% and 30% now willing to share their home address.
But what about “intimate” photos? According to our survey, 53% admitted to sharing intimate photos of themselves with someone they met through an online dating site before meeting them in person. Care to guess who is more likely to share these pics? If you said “men”, you are correct. Overall, men are much more likely (64%) to share intimate photos than women (41%).
So why are people sharing all this information?
One issue that is rampant across dating sites and social media is that many sites don’t make it easy to understand what information you are ultimately sharing. Locating the privacy settings can be difficult and many people don’t realize how much information they are ultimately sharing. Of those we polled, 23% have no idea what permissions they have granted their chosen online dating apps.
Why are we talking about this now?
Valentine’s isn’t just a time when people pay $80 for a $12 bouquet of roses, it’s also a time when people pay more attention to their online dating profile. 59% of men are more likely to spend time on a dating site leading up to Valentine’s Day with women 48% more likely to do the same. So as you look through your matches, take a moment to think about how you can protect your privacy while still making yourself appealing.
Tips to protect your privacy:
- My name is SuperClutchFan…well online it is. When using online dating, you want to make it difficult for cybercriminals (or stalkers) to connect your online profile to your real identity. Have some fun with it. Instead of JohnSmith88, maybe something like CaptainHumble or MtBikerHiker.
- Hand out compliments, not your information. You should always be stingy with your information online. Although it may seem harmless to share your location, name, occupation, age, first pet and mother’s maiden name in your profile – these identifying characteristics can be pieced together by fraudsters to assume your identity. Share as little information as possible at first and then only give out more sensitive information once you’ve made a connection.
- A fling might not last forever, but those pictures will. While sharing intimate pictures might seem like a good idea now, keep in mind that those pictures and videos will stay around forever. Even social media apps that say pictures go away can be easily circumvented with a screenshot. It’s not just celebrities who have intimate pictures spread around the Internet!
- Unchain your heart, but lock your phone! Don’t forget to add a PIN or passcode to your phone. You don’t want someone sneaking a peak at the pictures on your phone as you step away to freshen up in the bathroom.
Valentine’s Day is about sharing your feelings with people you care about, not sharing your private information with cybercriminals. Making sure your personal information is safe is one less thing to be nervous about when you go out on that first date. Good luck, and be safe!