Apps collect data for a lot of different reasons, including making your experience with the app better, fixing bugs and when it comes to dating apps, sensitive and personal information is needed to create algorithms used to find you your future lover.
One of the biggest issues with dating apps is that, unlike most other apps, they request a lot of sensitive information from their users to build a profile. This can include basic information such as your name, age, gender, and date of birth, however, a lot of the time, can also include a lot more personal information such as religious beliefs, sexual orientation, drugs and alcohol use, whether you have/want kids, height and weight. Although this is important information in order to find a future partner, leakage or disclosure of this information could expose users to all kinds of threats, including hackers and scammers who have been gaining access to people’s most sensitive information to trick them into sending payments. According to data from UK Finance, £68 million was lost to bank transfer romance scams in 2020.
With this in mind, experts at MoneyTransfers.com have analysed 15 different dating apps to identify which apps share the most of your sensitive information with third parties, collect for their own marketing and which have the longest privacy policies to find the most invasive dating app overall.
The dating apps that share the most data with third parties
When you consider just how popular dating apps are in today's society, hundreds of millions of people’s data can be mined. Many apps, not just dating, gather their users data to target you with adverts. We’ve all closed one app to then see an advert selling us something we just looked at appearing elsewhere.
This is made possible when one company passes your data onto another, usually, a third party who is associated with the company, but not always as companies can buy other companies' data. This is a common way in which companies monetise their free dating apps. In 2020, The Norwegian Consumer Council released findings which suggested the information you enter on dating apps is being used to create comprehensive profiles which are then sold on to third-party companies which is actually a privacy violation and a breach of European laws.
The dating apps which share your personal data with third parties
Our research revealed that overall 67% of dating apps collected your personal data to share with third parties. Badoo and HER were discovered to be the dating apps which share the most of their users’ personal data with third parties (35%), including everything from location, contact information, identifiers (IP address and cookie identifies) and usage data.
In joint second place was eharmony and Grindr who shared 21% of their users data with third parties and in third place came Tinder and Plenty of Fish who both collect 14% of your personal data to share with third parties.
There were a total of 5 out of the 15 dating apps investigated, which did not collect any of their users personal data to share with third parties. These apps were Hinge, Thursday, Flava, Once and, the exclusive celebrity and influencer dating app, Raya. This means that as far as their users are concerned, none of their personal data is being shared with third parties and is being used solely for the purpose of their own marketing or analytics.
The dating apps that use your personal data for their own marketing
Another reason apps collect your data is for their own benefit which involves their own marketing. Developer’s advertising and marketing on an app involves their own ads popping up on other apps, sending marketing communications, and in-app promotions.
The dating apps which collect your personal data for their own benefit
OKCupid took the crown for the app collecting the most of their users’ personal data for their own benefit with 42% of users personal data collected to sell more of their own products and serve relevant ads on behalf of others. This information included purchases made by users, users location, contact information, users content, identifiers and usage data.
There were several apps which collected 35% (which was the second highest amount) of users’ data for their own marketing and advertising purposes. These apps included Hinge, Tinder, Bumble, Plenty of Fish, Badoo, HER and Happn. In third came Grindr, eharmony, Once and Raya who all collected 28% of users data for their own personal benefit.
There were only two apps- Thursday and Flava, which did not appear to collect any personal data for even their own benefit.
The dating apps that use your personal data to track you
Believe it or not, apps can also collect your personal data in order to track you and/or your device. Apple’s definition of tracking refers to ‘any data collected in an app about a person or your device that is linked to data collected by another party such as a data broker or advertising network’. In simpler terms, this is any data shared with third parties after it has been collected through the app.
This type of data collection has been defended by developers and advertisers by suggesting the information being collected is tied only to a unique number, not a person. However, research has shown that this is quite trivial and that this unique number can easily link a device to a person.
The data collected to track you includes contact information which includes information like name, address, mobile number and also location data.
This means apps can share device location data or email lists with third-parties. In order to show nearby potential matches, the majority of the 15 dating apps we investigated track user location through the device GPS and Wifi. This does raise concerns that several apps at a time can track down users, with only minimal location data available.
The dating apps which share your personal data to track you
The worst two apps for using their users' personal data to track them were Badoo and HER who collected 36% of users’ data. This included data such as purchases made, contact information, location, usage data, “other data” and identifiers. In joint second place was eharmony and Bumble who collected 29% of their users’ data for tracking purposes. In third place came OKCupid who used 21% of users’ data to track them. This is a scary amount of data that dating apps are selling on to other parties, including data brokers or advertising networks, especially when some of the categories apps were collecting included location and contact information.
Similar to sharing data with third parties, there were 5 out of 15 apps which shared none of their users’ data for tracking purposes. These apps included; Hinge, Tinder, Thursday, Plenty of Fish and Raya.
Visualising the length of dating apps terms and conditions and privacy policies
The length of dating apps terms and conditions
Our research found the average T&C agreements for the 15 dating apps takes 32 minutes for users to read. The T&Cs agreement for Grindr stands out as the top with the T&Cs taking over an hour to read.
There are a lot more intetresting things you can do in an hour such as taking a gym class, watching an episode of your favourite Netflix series or baking a cake. It’s therefore easy to see why users would rather skip over these agreements and click agree.
Interestingly, our investigation discovered that Grindr’s T&Cs agreement has not been updated since March 2020, meaning the document is over 2 years old! T&Cs are important to keep up-to-date not only for the users’ protection but also the business’ protection.
The second longest dating app T&Cs was Plenty of Fish which takes 53 minutes to read closely followed by the third longest being OKCupid taking 52 minutes. Both updated their T&Cs in February 2022 making them two of the most up-to-date out of all 15 apps, along with Match.com and Hinge who also updated in February 2022.
It is great that these apps are making sure they are protecting themselves and their users with lengthy T&Cs however, it’s been debated that T&Cs should be kept shorter and to the point making it easier for users to read, digest and understand.
The analysis revealed that Thursday had the shortest T&Cs agreement with only 1,415 words, taking only 6 minutes to read, on average. Flava came in second with their agreement taking just 12 minutes to read through, double the time of Thursday’s. In third was Match.com with a T&Cs agreement taking around 19 minutes to read.
The length of dating apps privacy policies
Although pretty quick to read, these short privacy policies make you wonder how transparent the brand is really being about what they do with the data they collect from their users.
Overall longest policies to read
We wanted to find out which of the 15 dating apps had the longest T&C’s and privacy policies when these two documents are combined, as often we would have to agree to both. On average, the average time it would take to read both T&Cs and privacy policies for the 15 apps analysed is just under an hour at 51 minutes.
The analysis revealed that Plenty of Fish ranked top for taking users the longest to read both agreement documents with a combined time of 73 minutes. Closely followed in second place was OKCupid, with a combined time of 72 minutes and in third was Hinge, with policies combined taking 70 minutes to read.
Overall, based on how much data the apps collected in total, for selling on, keeping for their own benefit and for tracking you, the least private dating apps included Badoo and HER in joint first followed by OKCupid and eharmony in second and third.
Dating app Thursday, which only launched in 2021, was revealed to be the safest dating app to use when it came to safety and privacy of personal data. According to our research, Thursday collects absolutely no data on their users for either their own personal benefit and sharing with third parties, which may explain why their T&Cs and privacy policies are so short.
In second place came Flava which collected no user data for third party marketing or their own marketing and just 7% to track users. Surprisingly, in third place came one of the most popular dating apps, Tinder which only collected a total of 28% of users personal data with none of their users’ data collected for tracking purposes.
6 simple tips on protecting your privacy on dating apps
When setting up your account, ensure you use a strong, unique password and do not share this with anyone else.
Beware of links using shortened URLs in which hackers will lure you away from the dating app to other sites in which they can harvest your data.
Be careful with how much information you are sharing. Never share information such as your full address, place of work and salary. Although dating apps might ask for it, usually this information is optional. You should also be careful when sharing photos, never share too many and never share any which may give away any information which could identify personal information about you.
Never send money to anyone over a dating app, no matter how much you may trust them. A lot of the time these scammers live abroad and therefore you may also be charged a huge fee to send money overseas by your bank.
Avoid linking your dating app to your social media accounts such as Instagram or Facebook profiles. This will make it even easier for scammers to identify you but also attack your social media accounts as well exposing the personal information you have on those apps.
Disable location-sharing features when you are not on the app. Apple will now allow you to state whether you want your location to be shared in the background, even when you’re not on the app or only when you are on it. This way it stops the app being able to track you in every single location you may visit.
MoneyTransfers.com analysed 15 different dating apps using Apples privacy labels featured in the App Store, which categorises all the data that can be collected by apps on their users into 14 categories. To work out which of the dating apps was the worst, we investigated how many of 14 categories they tracked.
MoneyTransfers worked out the time taken to read the terms and conditions and privacy policies of each app by taking the total word count and dividing this by the average adult silent reading time which is 238 words per minute.