2014-02-21 / Columnists

Your Life And Privacy

iLove You, iLove You Not: Online Dating
By Gille Ann Rabbin, Esq., CIPP/US

According to a recent Pew Research Internet Project report, one in ten Americans has used an online dating site or mobile dating app. Thirty-eight percent of those who are “single and looking” for a partner have used online dating sites or mobile dating apps.

Even if you haven’t used the Internet to look for love, you probably know someone else who has, or who has even found a spouse or partner through online dating.

Online daters can be exposed to misrepresentation, data security and safety vulnerabilities, and “romance scams,” among other issues. There is also the question whether a dating app or website can actually identify two people likely to have an authentic love connection. It is not uncommon for online daters to find that others lied about themselves in their profiles. According to the Pew report, over half of online daters have found serious misrepresentation in others’ profiles. Furthermore, dating sites and apps raise information privacy issues. In order to make matches for you, an online dating service will collect your data through forms, questions, and quizzes, for example. This data is fed into a mathematical algorithm, which generates a list of people with whom you may be compatible.

But once you provide your information, it has left your control.

The dating site now has it permanently, even if you cancel your account. Depending upon the site’s privacy practices, a prospective employer, insurance company, or even the government may end up with your information.

The site may even sell your info to data brokers for marketing or advertising purposes. The safety concerns of online dating are well known. Predators lurk on these sites, just as they do everywhere online. The media has reported many frightening online dating stories, and online safety experts urge Internet daters to take precautions. Online daters can also be exposed to scams that use romance as bait. According to the Federal Trade Commission, these “romance scams” are on the rise. In a romance scam, the criminal woos the victim over time, and then lures him or her off the dating site to communicate by email or another offsite form of communication. Once the fraudster wins the victim’s trust, he or she claims to be beset by a financial crisis, and asks the victim for money. The victim complies, and the fraudulent romantic interest and the victim’s money are never seen again. But scams and other concerns aside, how likely are mathematically generated matches to develop into successful romantic relationships? According to psychologists, the online dating model does not take into consideration important information, like aspects of relationships that emerge only after people meet and get to know each other, and environmental factors, that are critical to the survival of a long-term relationship.

However, according to these psychologists, online dating is no worse a way of finding romance than traditional offline methods.

Negative experiences on online dating sites may be relatively common, and the matches made may not be made in heaven.

Nonetheless, according to the Pew study, attitudes toward online dating are becoming more positive.

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