Analysis of dating apps has shown that many of them leak data, with some allowing the discovery of the identity of the users.
While we have written extensively on the dangers of meeting and communicating with strangers using online dating services, there is one other factor to consider, and that is the protection of your data and personal information.
Online security software firm Kaspersky Labs analysed nine mobile dating apps and the results should be a cause for concern among people who thought their information was safe.
Kaspersky discovered that some apps allowed for the interception and stealing of personal information. This made it possible for messages to be sent out in users’ names and also opened up the possibility of blackmail.
Kaspersky researchers Roman Unuchek, Mikhail Kuzin and Sergey Zelensky looked at how easy it was to track users by using data present in the app.
“If the app included an option to show your place of work, it was fairly easy to match the name of a user and their page on a social network,” they explained.
“This in turn could allow criminals to gather much more data about the victim, track their movements, identify their circle of friends and acquaintances. This data can then be used to stalk the victim.”
Using information on some of the apps where users can add work and education information, the researchers were able to identify users’ pages on social media in 60 per cent of cases.
In the case of the Android app for Happn, there is a special identification number for a Facebook account that the app can use to find out the friends who are common to both apps. A slight modification of this data allowed the researchers to find out the name of the user on his/her Facebook account.
With the iOS version of Happn, the user’s real Facebook ID was returned to the mobile app, making it easier to obtain.
Many apps leaked location data, while some of the apps also transmit photos without using encryption.
The authors of the study had several recommendations for protecting yourself when using mobile dating apps.
“Our universal advice is to avoid public wifi access points, especially those that are not protected by a password; use a VPN, and install a security solution on your smartphone that can detect malware,” the authors explain.
They also advise against specifying your place of work or providing any other information that could be used to identify you, particularly if you are trying to stay anonymous.