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Cyber Experts Explain How Dating Apps Are Posing Threats to Users of Stalking, Blackmailing & Doxing

© AP Photo / Tsering Topgyal, FileMan uses the dating app Tinder
Man uses the dating app Tinder  - Sputnik International, 1920, 06.07.2021
In times of swipe right and swipe left, online dating has made many people’s lives easier in finding love and starting a new relationship. Amid COVID-induced lockdowns, Tinder reached a record 3 billion swipes in a single day in March 2020, while OkCupid experienced a massive 700% increase in dates from March to May last year.
A study by global cybersecurity and digital privacy company Kaspersky has revealed that over the years, though dating apps have become safer from a technical standpoint, it still poses a significant risk when it comes to exposing user information, making them vulnerable to threats of cyber-stalking, blackmailing and doxing (where previously private information is made public in order to shame or harm the victim).
After analysing nine popular dating apps including Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Mamba, Pure, Feeld, Her, Happn, and Badoo, Kaspersky found that by sharing information such as their photo, location, place of work, name, contact information, and more, users put themselves at risk of being victims of cybercrime. 
“In order to explore and experiment with new apps, users sign up but they don’t go through the terms and conditions and privacy policy of the app. They have no clue of how their personal data such as their pictures, location, and other details are potentially going to misuse or viewed by the dating app. There are many rogue apps whose main job is to collect personal information and sell it further. One must incorporate cybersecurity as a way of life and prevent yourself from becoming victims of cybercrime," Cybercrime expert Pavan Duggal tells Sputnik.
According to the study, most dating apps continue to allow users to register their account with one of their social networking sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Spotify, etc. If the user chooses to do this, then their profile is automatically populated with information from that social networking site, making it easier to find users' social media accounts.

Enhancing Security in the Paid Version of Dating Apps 

In the paid versions of Tinder and Bumble, one can manually choose the location. Happn's paid version offers users an "incognito mode", whereby users can hide their profile from those they haven't swiped right on as well as strangers.
Tatyana Shishkova, a security expert at Kaspersky, said in a media statement, "What we've seen over the past few years is that dating apps are 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." 

Preventive Measures

To stay safe when using dating apps, cyber experts recommend not sharing too much personal information (last name, employer, photos with friends, political views, etc); do not tie it to other social media accounts; if possible, select locations manually; and use two-factor authentication.
If one is no longer using the app, they should delete or hide their profiles. The built-in messenger in dating apps should also be used to keep private information secured. 
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