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Online dating not only broadens the social network of people who use dating sites, but it also allows people to choose the people with whom they are most compatible. Subscribers of online dating sites have the choice of selecting who they want to meet or date based on the details they have access to as a result of their membership. The convenience of online dating, however, comes at a cost: users must provide personal information in order to access information about other people. Personal photos, information about users' locations, and payment data such as credit card information are all examples of information posted on social media. This paper aims to inform new social media users who subscribe to online dating sites of the critical concerns relating to privacy and the manner in which the information they provide on such sites can jeopardize their privacy and safety. Online dating sites are pertinent in ensuring the privacy and safety of online dating users.
According to Jayson, most people who engage in online dating lack adequate knowledge on the manner in which the information they provide on such sites affect their privacy and safety. 11% of adult Americans have used online dating sites but they do not realize how much information they share of themselves even through a slight choice like uploading a photo on their profile (Jayson). Through a study conducted by Cobb and Kohno, most users of online dating sites prefer having free online dating services as opposed to paying for features which would enable them to control who was able to see the information they share on the dating sites (Cobb and Kohno). The primary focus of online dating sites’ subscribers is to find love. Social media users on dating sites are largely unaware of the challenges in maintaining their privacy online when they provide any information. In the technologically advanced world we currently live in, information provided can be gleaned in order to make vital deductions that infringe on the privacy of a dating site user and jeopardize their safety. Photographs uploaded, for example, can be used to glean information on the location of individuals. Sites such as Tinder which require users to subscribe using their social media profiles on other sites such as Facebook affect the ability of individuals to keep their information private. Social media sites have a pertinent role to minimize the infringement to the privacy of individuals since they determine the information that users have to give in order to be users of online dating sites.
Jayson argues that regulations on online dating sites aimed at protecting the privacy of individuals are inefficient. The focus of regulations has been aimed at ensuring the safety of users as opposed to protection of the privacy of the users online. “As mobile dating proliferates, the focus no longer is just on daters leery of scams or sexual predators, but on keeping their locations confidential”, says Jason. Dating sites such as eHarmony and Match.com have attempted to remedy the privacy and safety concerns through the use of online safety tools (Jayson). The online safety tools protect the customers by allowing them to report any concerns they have over their safety. The study by Cobb and Kohno shows the manner in which citizens casually invade other people’s privacy with cavalier attitudes without realizing that they were also susceptible to the same invasion. Screenshots were cited as one of the ways in which the privacy of customers could be infringed by other users without the knowledge of the dating site (Cobb and Kohno). Screenshots can be used to collect information about users which could thereafter be used to blackmail the same users. The online dating sites are at the core of the discussion on privacy on social media sites. They have a duty to inform social media users of the possible consequences that could arise from the provision of information, for example through sending of pictures to someone they are matched with. Moreover, online dating sites have a duty to develop mechanisms of protecting their sites against invasion of privacy through mechanisms such as the development of software which prevents recording of conversations or video chats and taking of screenshots.
Online dating sites currently show a lack of commitment towards protection of privacy of their customers. The comments by cyber dating expert, Julie Spira that it is difficult for online dating sites to filter out genuine concerns on the safety and privacy of their customers because of the bulk of false reports shows that online dating sites are currently either incapable or not committed to ensuring the privacy of their users (Jayson). According to Cobb and Kohno, the objective of the study on privacy in online dating was to enable online dating sites to understand the current loopholes in their infrastructure in order to develop mechanisms through which they could protect the security of their users. The research showed that premium users who paid to use dating sites had more privacy protection compared to users who did not pay for services. Such mechanisms adopted by online dating sites enable those who can afford to pay for the services to have access to information on other users without their knowledge (Cobb and Kohno). The premium users can for example, look at the profiles of the users who do not pay to use the site without their knowledge. Such mechanisms are aimed at gaining profits at the expense of the privacy of the customers of the site.
In conclusion, online dating sites have an important role of ensuring that all users on their sites have protection of privacy. State laws and federal laws which are aimed at ensuring the privacy and safety of users should be adhered to. Moreover, the design of online dating sites should be modified to protect the privacy of the users. Requirement such as linking of accounts with other social media accounts such as Facebook and uploading of photographs should not be compulsory and in case a customer opts to provide such information, they should be warned of the privacy concerns before they do so. New online dating site users should ultimately realize that any information provided on social media sites including online dating sites make them susceptible to infringement of privacy and jeopardizes their safety.
Cobb, Camille and Tadayoshi Kohno. "How Public is My Private Life? Privacy in Online Dating." Proceedings of the 26th International Conference on World Wide Web. International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee (2017): 1231-1240.
Jayson, Sharon. "Is Online Dating Safe." 2014.
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