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    Mozilla Foundation Releases Report Critiquing Dating Apps For Privacy Risks

    The Mozilla Foundation, a non-profit organization, released a report reviewing the data privacy practices of 25 popular dating apps and found most of them severely lacking it. This is a follow-up to a similar 2021 review and reveals that dating apps have gotten much worse. While dating apps require users to provide a lot of personal information, the foundation states, “Companies often take advantage of that and use your personal information for reasons unrelated to love. They often say they can share it, sell it, or just don’t do the bare minimum to keep that data secure.” 22 of the 25 apps reviewed did not meet Mozilla’s Minimum Security Standards, earning them the ‘Privacy Not Included’’ label.

    So What Information Do These Apps Collect?

    The report elaborates on the amount of information such apps collect, from seemingly trivial and irrelevant questions like the marital status of your parents or how you would react when slipping on a banana peel to sensitive personal information like race, sexuality, HIV status, photographs and even biometric information, much of which is mandatory. Privacy policies can also be misleading such as when Tinder asks for your consent to share location data, but the app doesn’t work without it. The problem is further compounded as these apps may collect information that the user does not even realise is being shared, such as metadata from photos and videos. 64% of apps even mention creating inferences in their privacy policies, which is essentially using your data to guess more data about you.

    Is Your Data Safe?

    Even more seriously, many of these apps also have privacy policies that allow them to share your data with third parties or simply do not take sufficient precautions to safeguard your data. The report states, “Most dating apps (80%) may share or sell your personal information for advertising. And sometimes it’s not even clear to us whether your personal information is being sold or not (ahem, Bumble).” Furthermore, there is always the risk of data breaches, as the report points out – “We also couldn’t confirm whether half (52%) of the apps do the bare minimum to keep all your personal information safe, by meeting our Minimum Security Standards. So it’s also not surprising that the same number of apps (52%) earn our bad track record “ding” for a data breach, leak, or hack in the past three years.”

    AI Integration Spells Risk

    The foundation also warns that in their rush to integrate AI into their operations, dating apps could end up making an existing problem much worse. As dating apps announce their intentions to use AI for everything from helping users select their profile pictures to AI chatbot boyfriends, the foundation expresses its worries, “because generative AI is a privacy minefield that we’re not confident already bad-at-privacy dating apps can handle.”

    Some Worrying Facts

    • Lack of Privacy Policy: The dating app Lovoo did not have an English privacy policy available, despite being accessible in English-speaking countries like the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. This lack of transparency regarding their data practices raises concerns.
    • Consolidation of Ownership: A significant portion of the dating apps examined are owned by just two companies, Match Group and Spark Network. This concentration of ownership could lead to extensive sharing of personal data across multiple apps within their respective portfolios, compromising user privacy.
    • Legal Issues: Match Group and eHarmony have faced lawsuits alleging deceptive marketing practices and prioritizing profits over user interests, especially locking users into subscription traps. These allegations raise doubts about the integrity of their operations and their commitment to user satisfaction.
    • Potential Bias in AI Matching Algorithms: Several dating apps, including Tinder, OkCupid, and Facebook Dating, employ AI in their matching algorithms. However, there is a lack of transparency regarding how these algorithms work, raising concerns about the potential for perpetuating real-world biases and discrimination based on factors such as race and body type.
    • Increase in Romance Scams: Romance scams, where scammers create fake dating profiles to financially exploit unsuspecting users, have become a prevalent issue across multiple dating apps. Incidents of such scams have been reported on platforms like Tinder, Tantan, Zoosk, Facebook Dating, and Lovoo, highlighting the need for improved security measures.
    • Online Anonymity: Some dating apps, such as Muzz and Her, allow users to employ nicknames or aliases, promoting a degree of online anonymity and privacy for users.

    How Do Major Dating Apps Fare?

    Hinge

    Hinge markets itself as a dating app designed to be deleted once users find a meaningful relationship. However, concerns arise due to Match Group’s acquisition of Hinge in 2019 and the parent company’s track record of privacy and security issues. These include potential data-sharing agreements with AI companies, lawsuits related to photo verification features, and vulnerabilities that could expose user locations. Hinge collects a substantial amount of personal information from users, including contact details, gender, sexual orientation, interests, photos, and biometric data if using Selfie Verification. Even direct messages can be filtered through algorithms or even reviewed by humans. This information is used for purposes such as ad targeting and shared with other Match Group companies. Hinge can also create inferences about users’ preferences and characteristics based on the collected data. While Hinge claims not to sell personal information, it can share data with law enforcement and third parties for advertising purposes. Additionally, researchers have raised concerns about the potential for re-identifying supposedly anonymized data. The privacy policy also lacks clarity on whether all users can request the deletion of their personal information after using the app.

    Tinder

    Tinder, the popular dating app owned by Match Group, has faced numerous privacy and security issues over the years. In 2020, over 70,000 photos of women from Tinder were leaked on a dubious website. The app has also been accused of potential GDPR violations for excessive data sharing with advertisers and third parties. Tinder collects a significant amount of personal information from users, including contact details, gender, sexual orientation, interests, photos, and biometric data if using photo verification features. This data is used for purposes like ad targeting and shared with other Match Group companies. There have been lawsuits alleging Tinder did not obtain proper consent for processing biometric data and claims of fake accounts being verified. Match Group’s track record raises concerns about potential data-sharing deals involving user images for AI training. While Tinder claims not to sell personal information, it can share data with law enforcement and third parties for advertising. Researchers have highlighted the risk of re-identifying supposedly anonymized data, especially when location information is collected. Linking Tinder with social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram also allows data sharing between platforms.

    Bumble

    Bumble, the dating app where women make the first move, has faced several privacy and security issues. In 2020, researchers found a security bug that exposed personal information like political leanings, weight and locations of nearly 100 million Bumble users. Another vulnerability in 2021 could have revealed users’ precise locations.

    Bumble collects sensitive personal data such as sexual preferences, birthdays, and locations, in addition to standard account information like names and email addresses. The app can also access biometric data through photo verification features. Sharing any information is considered consent for Bumble to process it. User profiles, photos, and direct messages are potentially accessible to others. Bumble reviews message content for moderation purposes and to identify trends, although it claims to remove identifying information first. If users log in through Facebook, Bumble can access personal data like birthdays and photos from the social media platform unless opted out. Bumble can create inferences about users’ preferences and characteristics based on collected data. Bumble also provides an option to opt out of data sharing with marketing partners, indicating some user data may be sold or shared for advertising purposes. The app also reserves the right to use photos and videos for research.

     


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    The post Mozilla Foundation Releases Report Critiquing Dating Apps For Privacy Risks appeared first on MediaNama.

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