Protecting Your Privacy When Online Dating
It’s incredibly common in the digital age for people to meet others online. Dating online went from something fairly taboo to the norm, but that doesn’t mean that you want people to find your dating profiles when they search for your name or do a cyber background check or that you want your privacy to be invaded in the process.
There are ways to meet people online but still retain your sense of privacy.
There are two main approaches to privacy when you use dating sites. The first is technical—you can use the privacy features of the app. The second comes when you control the information you post.
Basic Rules for Privacy and Safety
In general, there are certain things you should make sure you’re doing or not doing to stay safe when you date online. First, never share your phone number, full name, or address publicly.
Make sure that you’re avoiding scams, and never provide payment information to anyone.
When you post photos or content on dating sites or apps, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want an employer or family member to see because there’s always a chance that it could be discovered. Operate under the assumption that everyone can see everything you’re posting, even if they can’t.
You also want to understand exactly what can be uncovered by looking at the most basic information on your dating profiles.
For example, if you post something like when you graduated from a certain college or you have a unique first name, someone could easily find you on Google or a social media platform.
How to Be Relatively Anonymous
If you want to protect your privacy at least somewhat, don’t put your workplace or school on your profiles. Remember that apps like Bumble and Tinder can pull this information from your social media profiles.
You should change your primary photo too. Both Tinder and Bumble will use your Facebook profile to auto-populate your dating profile, meaning the same picture will be on both. Change the photos, so they aren’t identical because if they are the same, it’s easy for someone to know they’ve found the same person.
Don’t link to Instagram via your dating profiles. Some people like to link to their Instagram so they can then share more photos of themselves, and then you’re also providing that guarantee that you’re real. Unfortunately, when you do that, you’re creating privacy concerns for yourself. Your Instagram profile can give away a lot about what you do and how you spend your time, and it also provides access to not just your photos but your friends and family who might follow you and comment.
Similarly, rethink the sharing of your social media handles on your dating profiles, especially if they have your full name or personally identifiable information.
A lot of dating apps prefer that you link through your Facebook account, but you don’t have to. When you don’t link, you stay more in control.
Be Cautious When It Comes to Location Features
When you use location features on a dating app, it’s limiting your possible matches to people that are physically near you, but that can be an obvious problem for your safety and privacy, so consider restricting these features.
If an app requires your location for its basic functions, set it so that it’s only showing your location while you’re actively using the app.
Take Your Time Before Giving Out Your Number
It’s common to give out your phone number on dating apps because then you can take your conversation outside of the app.
Be cautious about that, though, because once someone has your phone number, if it’s linked to your Instagram account, they can find your profile. If you are going to give out your number, make sure you unlink it from your Instagram.
Limit the Apps You Use
Maybe you want to cast a wide net on dating apps to potentially connect with the right person, but when you do that, you’re putting your information in more places, and you’re also less likely to be in control of what you’re sharing. Try to limit things to one or two apps.
Finally, if you do meet someone and you start a relationship, don’t just leave your dating apps or profiles inactive. Instead, you should delete the apps altogether. The app may require extra steps that can be an annoyance, like emailing the company, but it’s best for your digital footprint to remove as much private information as you can. Otherwise, you’ll continue to have personal information related to dating listed on the app, which can be problematic down the road.