Should you link other social media accounts to your data profile?
Should you link other social media accounts to your data profile?

WhatsApp allows you to block people too, but there are other things to consider. Moving to WhatsApp requires exchanging phone numbers, which may be trackable via search engines or social media platforms, says Jake Moore, global cybersecurity adviser at Slovakia-based company ESET. “It is very important to keep conversations within the platform until you are confident.”

It's possible to link your social media accounts to dating apps, but should you do this? Most experts think sharing information about your life requires a careful approach. It's “very unwise” to link your social media accounts to your dating profile, says Tom Gaffney, principal security expert at security company F-Secure.

Cybersecurity specialists advise against logging into the dating apps via Facebook, which allows additional data harvesting to take place. Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Some apps already give you the option to limit sharing your entire social media profile, while exposing enough to let other users know you are genuine. For example, Bumble allows you to connect your Instagram, which will display your last 24 photos but won't link out to your account, reveal your social handle, or display any other information such as captions or hashtags.

At the same time, logging in via Facebook is a definite no-no, because it allows additional data collection by the app, even if it's not displayed publicly. “If you create a login with your Facebook account, apps such as Hinge can access Facebook data including your name, phone number and marital status,” says Gaffney.

How can I see how much data dating apps collect?

Before signing up, it's a good idea to go through your chosen app's privacy policy and take into account what it will use your data for. Hinge's privacy policy, for example, describes how collecting data is necessary for using the app and to keep you safe by monitoring behaviour. However, it also adds that your information can be used to “provide you with advertising that may be of interest to you”.

If you give it permission, the dating app can collect your geolocation data as well as photos and videos. This information can be shared within the Match Group companies.

Bumble's privacy policy details similar data collection, including device identifiers, location based on your IP address and your age to share with advertisers.

Once you have signed up, one way of finding out the eye-watering amount of information an app has on you is a data subject access request. This is something that's possible as part of EU and UK data protection regulation.

It's a good idea to make a subject access request after you've been using an app for a few weeks, says James Walker, chief executive of consumer data action service Rightly. Once you've finished using the app, it's best to send a deletion request. “Under EU regulation the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the company has to respond within a calendar month and confirm it has erased all the data it has about you,” Walker says.

What else can I do to stay secure and private?

Dating apps can be a security and privacy minefield, but there are steps you can take to stay safe. To protect yourself from hackers, it's a good idea to use two-factor authentication such as an authenticator app in addition to strong passwords, plus a password manager if possible.

The dating sites themselves offer multiple features to help you stay safe. In Bumble, for instance, there is the option of using the app in “incognito mode”, which allows you to hide your profile and only appear to those whom you have swiped right on.

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