Sunday, August 02, 2015

20 Ways to Protect Your Identity When Dating Online


According to Statistica is the number one dating website with over 35 million users. Over 49 million people have tried online dating. According to Public Radio International (PRI) over 120 million Americans are single. If you go a Google search of “online dating sites” there are over 41 million results. 

Online dating sites provide a complete profile of a person that contains data you cannot find on social media or other websites. People are more comfortable talking about themselves online than in person. 

You may be asked to reveal your age, gender, race, education, profession, marital status, number of children, religious beliefs, sexual preferences, income, ethnicity, where you live, where you work, and the places you socialize.

However, when you stop using the account, stop paying membership fees, cancel or delete the account, the information can still be accessed. What most users don’t realize is that every dating website start-up buys, steals, or pulls data from other dating sites to increase their member database. This information may be shared with prospective dates, advertisers and data aggregators who use the data for other purposes and without customer consent. 

There are also risks such as scammers, sexual predators, spammers, and reputational damage that may come along with using online dating websites.

According to Mr. Gibson, former head of cybersecurity with Microsoft, “data that is posted on the Internet should be considered permanent after 20 minutes, even if the file has been deleted.” Personal information about you that exists on the internet doesn’t mean it is always accessible to you or that you’ll have control over it. In many cases you don’t have control and may harm you in the future.

Personal photos uploaded are often stored in a collection of databases that are not owned by the dating service. Even if you delete a photo from a dating website, a cache of photos remains that is maintained by another company that will not be deleted.

This provides a great opportunity for hackers as evidenced by the recent Ashley Madison hack, an online dating website for people who cheat on their spouses. Many websites use limited security protection and don’t implement security features until a major event such as a hack occurs. 

Here are 20 practical ways to reduce collateral damage if your information is exposed and to help protect your privacy when using online dating websites.

  1. Write letters to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and your U.S. Congressman requesting that laws, policies and standards be developed for protecting consumers when using online dating websites.
  2. If you feel your personal information has been misused file a complaint with the FTC.
  3. Get a PO Box and use that as your primary address.
  4. Get a Google voice phone number and use that as your primary phone number.
  5. List your DOB as mm/dd exclude the year.
  6. Don’t list: your home address, work address, work phone number, home phone number, the name of your employer, where you go to church, where your children go to school, the name of your neighborhood, nearby places close to your employer, church or home or anything that can identify where you live, socialize or work.
  7. Read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.
  8. Ask how customer information is protected, HTTPS, SSL, etc.
  9. Access the site using a secure locked Wi-Fi network.
  10. Remove GPS location data when uploading pictures.
  11. Use an alias name as your username.
  12. Use a secure password that is 9 characters long, has 1 uppercase letter, 1 lowercase letter, numbers and at least 1 special character.
  13. It should delete data after you close the account, and disclose sharing your personal information with other members.
  14. It should disclose who gets to see your data.
  15. It should disclose whether the website shares your email address with third parties.
  16. It should disclose if your profile or pictures will be chosen to use in advertising or marketing.
  17. Use the blind email service offered by the website.
  18. Avoid using free dating websites, they use minimal security protection measures.
  19. Avoid making your profile public which causes your profile to be indexed by Google and searchable.
  20. If you use Firefox, install EFF HTTPS Everywhere, a Firefox add-on that will automatically change URLs from HTTP to HTTPS on over a thousand sites to help protect internet users.

1 comment:

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