This is just one step in a series created to help anyone improve their online security regardless of their technical knowledge. For more information, see our complete Simple Online Security series.
Communicating with strangers online is always a complicated experience. When you toss in dating, the whole situation quickly grows complicated. The LGBTQ community has special considerations, as well, especially in certain parts of the world. But everyone can take a few simple steps to make their dating profiles more secure.
Use a unique email address and phone number: Online dating can lead to meeting all sorts of creeps, so it’s best to set up an email address and phone number specifically for dating, if you can. We have a guide to setting up both.
Stick to the app’s communication tools (at first): Most dating apps have built-in chat tools. Although they’re often clunkier and less feature-packed than dedicated messaging platforms, it’s still best to stick to them at the start. That way, if things don’t work out, the other person doesn’t have your phone number.
Don’t share photos that reveal location: Whether you’re picking a profile picture or you’ve reached a point where you’re comfortable exchanging photos with someone, avoid sending photos that might easily reveal your home address, such as a shot in front of your house or apartment. Depending on how you took the photo, the file might also have EXIF data, which can reveal information such as your location, but you can wipe that. Some messaging apps, such as Signal, strip this data from photos automatically. Even if you’re not using those apps to communicate, you can send a message to yourself in Signal with the photo, and it’ll strip the EXIF data so you can send it through whichever app you’re communicating through.
Poke around the mobile app’s security or privacy settings: Most dating apps collect a lot of data about you, but similar to a social network like Facebook, they usually give you options for what to display on your profile and how things appear. Poke around the various settings in the app to ensure you’re not accidentally giving out any details about yourself that you don’t mean to. Be particularly wary of linking any social media accounts to dating apps, as doing so might give strangers more visibility into your private life than you intend.
If you meet in the real world: If you do decide to meet someone, be sure to do so in a public space that both of you will be comfortable in. Tell a friend or family member beforehand about the meeting details, and check in afterward to let them know you’re okay.
Good sources of information
- Electronic Frontier Foundation’s security tips for online LGBTQ dating covers all the fundamentals about communication and staying safe.
- Wired’s guide to safely using dating apps is a good primer on the apps themselves and how they work.
- Mozilla’s Privacy Not Included project looked into the security and privacy of dating apps and found that most don’t always respect either one. Although there’s not much you can do to get around that problem, be aware that the data these apps collect will likely get shared around.
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