Facebook Dating made its official debut in the United States this month, marking the tech giant’s entry into yet another online business-and raising questions about how the company could eventually use the new data it collects.
Online romantics may be skeptical about trusting Facebook with dating information, despite promises by the company to protect their data. Facebook has a history of privacy scandals, and generates revenue by using consumers’ personal information to sell targeted advertising.
The big, established dating apps collect plenty of intimate information about their users, and they know things that even Facebook doesn’t. But these apps aren’t as dependent on advertising for their revenue, reducing one concern for people who care about their privacy. Instead, these companies make money primarily by selling subscriptions and upgrades to their services.
You can start using most dating apps for free, but the experience is often better if you pay to upgrade. In the first half of 2019, consumers spent more money on the Tinder app than any other non-gaming app in the world, according to Lexi Sydow, senior market insights manager for App Annie, an analytics company.
For its part, Facebook says it won’t use any Dating information for advertising. However, targeted advertising isn’t the only reason to consider privacy when you are providing information to a company. Whether you use Facebook Dating or more-established dating apps, there are still good reasons to think about where your data is going, who has access to it, and how it may be used.
What Do Dating Apps Know About You?
As you swipe, type, and meet up with online matches, dating apps are collecting all sorts of information. There’s what you tell them directly, such as your name, occupation, what you’re looking for in a partner, and your sexual preferences.
They gather a lot of data from your smartphone, too. Most ask for access to your location, and many sponge up details such as your contacts, your photos, WiFi and network connections, and files on your device. (You can use your phone’s permissions settings to limit some of that tracking.)
When you use a dating app, or many other apps for that matter, you’re also giving away data in less obvious ways. For example, with nothing more than the time you spend hovering over someone’s profile, you could reveal your interest or lack of interest in the type of person you’re looking at, which may include such details as their racial background or whether they’re smiling in their photos.
How Private Is Your Online Dating Data?
You might never choose to share those thousands of intimate facts with a friend or family member, but if you use dating apps, you are providing the information to companies that will collect and retain every detail. Or, more likely, you are sharing the information with one particular company.
Name a dating app at random and there’s a good chance a single company called Match Group owns it. The dating conglomerate runs Tinder, Plenty of Fish, OKCupid, Match, Hinge, and dozens of others. (A handful of popular alternatives owned by other companies include Bumble, eHarmony, and Grindr.)