7 Signs Your Online Dating Privacy Is At Risk

7 Surprising Signs Your Online Dating Privacy Is At Risk

When Angie, 34, answered a phone call from an unknown number over Labor Day weekend, she expected it to be one of her graphic design clients. Instead, it was Dave, a man who said he met her on JDate. The only problem: Angie hadn't used the dating site for over a year. "I honestly didn't remember this guy at all," Angie says. "Apparently, we emailed a bit, I gave him my number, and he decided to call me a year later. We never even went out!" Strangely, Dave was surprised Angie didn't remember him, and he eventually hung up. Angie laughed the incident off, but it made her wonder... What if a more dangerous person had hung on to her phone number? And how much personal information was still out there, long after she'd stopped using JDate?

Everyone knows the online dating safety basics, like meeting in public and telling friends about date plans. But even savvy online daters make mistakes that compromise their safety and privacy, and it often involves sharing their personal phone number. "Many people don't consider how one phone number can be used to pull up other personal information, like name and home address, on public records websites like Spokeo," says John Skorick, founder of MyAKA, a mobile phone privacy protection service. "Dating sites don't give users tools to manage their privacy, so MyAKA is here to fix that."

The concept is simple: MyAKA provides a second number in your area code that relays calls and texts to your cell phone. You can communicate with potential dates via voice or text without revealing your actual number — and potential dates will be none the wiser. For as little as $9.99 per month, subscribers get 100 voice minutes and/or text messages, as well as free voicemail. MyAKA also offers a Do Not Disturb mode and allows instant blocking of unwanted contacts.

You can start protecting your privacy today, thanks to a free week-long trial at But safeguarding your phone number is just the beginning. Keep reading for 7 more signs your online dating privacy is at risk.

1) You've never read your online dating site's privacy policy.

When you set up an online dating profile, you're asked for a lot of personal information — from your age to where you live to what kind of relationship you're seeking. Read the fine print to find out how this information will be used. Dating sites are required to disclose what other information they're more discreetly collecting about you, like user behavior, and how and if they share it with advertisers and other sites.

2) You think an Internet cookie sounds delicious.

C is for "cookie," but it also might stand for "creepy." Your dating site's privacy policy will disclose how it uses cookies, small text files stored on your computer for record-keeping. If you're not comfortable with a file keeping tabs on your behavior, you can change your browser settings to decline or delete cookies. (Bet you never thought you'd want to decline a cookie, huh?)

3) You've used your online dating username elsewhere.

In order to maintain a strong and consistent web presence, many people use the same username — often a full name, if it's available — for social media accounts. It's great for exposure, but not for privacy. Keep your online dating username completely unique, so people can't Google it and find other information about you.

4) You've never changed your account's default settings.

The default settings on your online dating account are designed to remind you — and everyone else on the site — that you're single and ready to mingle. Fine-tuning these settings can limit annoyances, like blocking chat messages and automated emails. It can also protect your privacy in the long run. "For example, puts customers in Member Spotlight as a default," says MyAKA founder John Skorick. "It not only highlights these users within the site, but also in ads across sites like Facebook." Yikes! Keep reading...

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5) You've given out your personal e-mail.

The personal email address is the new private phone number. It should only be shared with people you trust. Jayne Hancock, a cybercrime expert and the president of WHOA (Working to Halt Online Abuse) advises online daters to create a new email account just for online dating. "Use a free account from Gmail, Yahoo!, or Hotmail when you graduate from on-site messaging," she says. "That way, if things get uncomfortable, you can easily cancel the account. And if this happens, be sure to report the person to the dating site, so it doesn't happen to someone else."

6) Your online dating profile uses photos of you from other websites.

It's quick and easy to post a great picture from Facebook or your blog to your online dating profile. But it also puts you in danger of reverse image search. By entering the URL of a photo into Google Image Search, anyone can find the other websites where an image appears. Strangers can use it to access your blog, which may include your full name, personal email, and other information you're not comfortable sharing yet.

7) You use a mobile dating app — or any app involving check-ins.

With a number of dating apps, GPS enables users to find other singles nearby, sometimes even in the same bar! It's designed to help people meet in real life with just a little technological help. But there's the potential for disaster, ranging from embarrassment to stalking. 

In general, apps with check-ins and posted locations pose safety concerns. In addition to the chance that the wrong person may find it, some third-party developers have used data from sites like Foursquare to put people on singles mapping apps. Which is great, if you've consented to that. Otherwise, it's another way your privacy is at risk.

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