Online Dating #FromHome

Online Dating #FromHome

Love finds a way. And that couldn’t be more true right now.

Even with so many singles keeping life close to home, dating apps have seen a big spike in downloads and usage. According to dating app Bumble, the end of March saw an 84% increase in the number of its video calls and voice chats. On March 29th, the Tinder dating app reported the highest number of swipes ever in one day—some 3 billion profiles got swept left or right. Should any of this surprise us?

Probably not. It only makes sense that people are turning to dating apps, as they’re designed to bring people together. So even though that may mean people can’t catch up in person, they still can catch up—at least virtually. And that’s important right now. We all know isolation from others isn’t easy, or healthy. There’s a good reason people are reaching out and making connections where they can.

How are people dating online right now?

I came across two articles on the topic the other day, both of which caught my eye—one from Time and another from Forbes. Even if you’re not dating, they’re both worth a read. Here’s what appears to be happening: people are pouring more hours into texting and video chatting on dating apps than before. Both articles offer plenty of anecdotes shared by daters, and whether or not they’re looking for a long-term relationship,  they’re looking to talk. What remains to be seen is how this may change the face of online dating in the long haul for this industry that accounts for $6 billion in sales each year worldwide.

These trends got me to thinking, so this article is for you or anyone you know who may be hopping onto an online dating app like Match, Bumble, Plenty of Fish, eHarmony, Tinder, or OkCupid. Think of it as an advice column of a different sort, where we talk about dating in light of your online privacy and safety. 

Protecting your privacy while dating online

For starters, we have a couple of previous blogs that offer sound advice about online dating. The first  covers ways you can protect your privacy when you’re using online dating apps, which starts with picking a dating app that has a good reputation. The second rounds out the topic with further online dating advice for adults and teens alike. Give them a look!

Go into dating feeling confident and secure.

Now for my two cents on the topic. It starts with basic hygiene. Digital hygiene, that is. Before you dive into a dating app, ensure that your device (and all your connected devices while you’re at it) has a comprehensive security solution in place. As you surf, chat, and meet up online, you’ll want to know that you’re protected against malware, viruses, phishing attacks, sketchy links, and so forth. Other features will come in handy (and be necessary as well), like ones that help you manage your passwords, protect your identity, safeguard your privacy, and more—all of which we’ll talk about in a bit.

Pick a winner

Picking the right app is like picking the right date. From a security standpoint,  these apps are the keepers of highly personal information about you, so you’ll want to know how they handle data, what privacy protections are in place, and what information they gather when you first sign up and what they continue to gather as you use the app. Do your research. Read up on their privacy policies. See what other people have to say about their experiences. And get a sense of what the app is all about. What’s its approach to dating? What kind of relationships are they focusing on? Make sure all of it feels right to you. 

Don’t get too personal

Only give the app the information that’s absolutely necessary to sign up. Dating apps ask questions so that they can help you find an ideal match, yet only share what you feel comfortable sharing. This is true from a personal standpoint, but it’s true from a security standpoint too. Anything you share along those lines could be at risk of a hack or a breach, the likes of which were reported by Wired and Forbes last year. If your info is compromised, it could lead to anywhere from identity theft to harassment, so when you use a dating app, keep the sharing to a minimum—and keep your eyes peeled for any suspicious activity across your social media, online accounts, and even your finances.

Passwords are your pal

Another password to remember! That’s just what you need, right? Right! It absolutely is, and a strong one is vital. You can create one and manage all of your passwords with a password manager like the True Key app. It’s free, and it’ll encrypt your passwords and use multi-factor authentication, which offers even further protection from hacks and attacks on your account.

Use a VPN for extra privacy

You can help keep your chats more private, and just about anything else you’re doing online, by using a VPN (virtual private network). For example, our VPN uses bank-level encryption to keep your personal data and activities private from hackers. And it’ll hide other information associated with your dating account while you’re online, like personal details, credit card numbers, and so forth. Given the security risks we’ve talked about so far, you’ll want to look into a VPN. 

Use caution with public Wi-Fi

If you’re not using a VPN on your device, don’t use your dating app on public Wi-Fi. The issue is this: plenty of public Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t secure. Someone else on the network could easily intercept the information you send over it, including your passwords, any photos you share, and any chats you have. In other words, using public Wi-Fi without protection is like opening a door that leads right to you and your most personal data. This applies to everything on public Wi-Fi, not just dating aps. If you use public Wi-Fi at all, you really should us a VPN.

Dating outside the app

There’s a pretty good chance that you have a video conferencing app or two available to you. You’re not alone. Market data agency App Annie reported that one video conferencing app saw downloads in Italy increase by nearly 425 time their previous average in March and by more than 2,300 times their previous average in Spain. Meanwhile in the UK, France, and Germany, the top video conferencing apps saw downloads increase by 11 to 30-fold during the same time.

If you’re thinking about using one of these to do a little dating outside of a dating app, or if you’re just using one keep up with family and friends, the advice here is do your research. Find out how secure they are and what privacy policies they have in place, particularly as some have experienced security issues as of late. For more, check out my recent article on video conferencing so you can help keep hackers and party crashers at bay when you’re chatting.

For example, look for one that uses end-to-end encryption so that the conference is protected from prying eyes and so that others can’t intrude upon the conversation uninvited. Look for articles from reputable sources too, like Consumer Reports, as there have been further reports of privacy issues where certain user information has been shared with third parties while using the video conferencing tool. 

In all, we’re leaning on technology so much more heavily right now and online dating is just one more instance of that. While online dating isn’t new, how we’re using it from home is, at least in a few ways. However you, your friends, or family go about that, be safe and have fun!

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