Privacy Settings

Online Dating

Navigating Privacy Settings in Online Dating Platforms

Sophia Peyser

Written by: Sophia Peyser

Sophia Peyser

Sophia Peyser studies English and Creative Writing at Emory University. She has read extensively about dating, written passionately about love, and imparted friends with unsolicited (but well-researched) dating advice. With a background in journalism and content writing, Sophia loves writing about the tools singles can use to ensure both happiness and safety in their relationships.

Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Reviewed by: Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks is the Editor-in-Chief at DatingAdvice.com. When she was growing up, her family teased her for being "boy crazy," but she preferred to think of herself as a budding dating and relationship expert. As an English major at the University of Florida, Amber honed her communication skills to write clearly, knowledgeably, and passionately about a variety of subjects. Now with over 1,800 lifestyle articles to her name, Amber brings her tireless wit and relatable experiences to DatingAdvice.com.

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According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 3 in 10 U.S. adults have used a dating site or app. Tinder alone is responsible for over 97 billion matches, and Match.com has been pairing people up since the 1990s.

Many types of daters can find success in online dating, whether they’re a female user who likes making the first move on Bumble or a casual dater who prefers the ease of swiping on Tinder. 

However, online dating involves a privacy risk. The Federal Trade Commission found that romance scams have hit a record high in the last few years due to the ease with which scammers can create fake online profiles or assume the identities of real people. 

Registering for a dating app requires forfeiting personal information. Tinder, for example, requires the user to input their phone number or Google/Apple account, first name, date of birth, two photos, location, and sexual orientation.

Providing so much personal information to an online app can feel daunting. Luckily, there are surefire ways you can stay safe while dating online. 

Privacy Settings | Risks | Tips to Staying Safe

Understanding Privacy Settings by App

Online dating can be private, depending on how you safeguard your information. Most apps, including Bumble, Tinder, and Hinge, allow you to switch your profile visibility off. Sometimes you can also choose who can message you or view your photos.

Profile Visibility Settings

On Tinder, this looks like disabling the visibility setting under “Show on Tinder.” Switching this setting off provides the perfect opportunity to take a break from swiping. It also allows users to quickly protect their identities in risky situations. 

Bumble and Hinge, similarly, have features that allow users to snooze or pause their profiles, which temporarily hides them from other users. Bumble also has a premium feature aptly named “incognito” that allows users to only be seen by people they have swiped on. 

Screenshot of Tinder incognito mode settings
Popular dating apps, such as Tinder, have incognito options so your profile doesn’t show up in the card stack. (Photo source: TechReader)

Another great way to maintain your privacy is to adjust who can see you on an app. Scared of seeing a coworker or family member on a dating app? Tinder allows users to block contacts to avoid having their profiles shown to people they know.

All users need to do is enter a contact’s email address or phone number into the “Block contacts” menu. 

Location Settings

Location privacy is another important element of online dating safety. Grindr is infamous for its reliance on geographical distance. The platform lines up users on a grid according to their geographical distance from you.

Users can see when another user is five miles away from them …or five feet away from them! Luckily, if you aren’t interested in that level of geographical precision, you can change your visibility on the “Consent Preferences” menu so that Grindr places you on the grid without showing exactly how far away you are.

“We all have friends who have had wonderful success stories and met their lifetime partner through these apps. But that also comes with the understanding that there are also bad actors who are going to use these apps in various ways to perpetrate crimes.” Erinn Robinson, Director of Media Relations at RAINN

Tinder also shows other users your distance from them in miles but does not show your exact physical location. If you prefer more location privacy, it’s easy to set your location preferences to further away, so that your profile is only shown to people located more than a certain distance away.

Hinge may be a good option for users who don’t want others to see their location; the app doesn’t use the GPS or IP address from your device, so you can set and change your location with ease. 

Communication Preferences

Beyond allowing users the security and privacy of controlling who sees them and when they are seen, most apps give users options when it comes to communication style. Safety-minded people may prefer not to relocate the conversation to WhatsApp, iMessage, or Instagram in the interest of protecting their phone number or social media profile. 

Luckily, most dating apps allow you to send emojis and voice memos in the app’s chat section, just like your preferred messaging app.

Social Media Connections

If giving out your Instagram isn’t your speed, some apps give users the comfort of withholding social media information. Hinge and Tinder allow users to “preview” their social media accounts in their dating app profiles. Tinder also lets users pick a song to advertise as their “anthem” through Spotify. 

These features are optional on Hinge and Tinder — however, apps like Facebook Dating require individuals to log in through their social media accounts.

Facebook Dating logo
Facebook Dating is connected to your social media accounts.

Facebook Dating takes user privacy seriously. Your dating activities will not appear on your regular Facebook feed, and your Facebook Messenger chats will be separate from Facebook Dating messages. 

If having your social media account attached to your dating profile is intimidating, avoid apps that require it! There are plenty of other dating app options that permit users to reveal their social media accounts if and when they feel comfortable doing so. 

Privacy Risks in Online Dating

Needless to say, dating apps can collect a lot of information about you, depending on the app and the settings you select. This can make dating online particularly nerve-racking, given the risk of encountering cybercrime or romance scams. 

Catfishing Scams

Catfishing, which refers to an individual online posing as somebody they are not, is a prime example of a romance scam. 

Graphic with text explaining catfish definition
Unfortunately, catfishing is all too popular: Nearly 20,000 people report being catfished every year!

Catfishers can be cyber criminals who try to trick you into trusting them and coerce victims into giving away personal information. Being able to recognize a romance scam like catfishing is the best precaution against these scams, other than minimizing the amount of personal information you share on the app. 

Red flags to look out for include:

  • Refusal to make a video call or to show their face beyond their profile pictures
  • Having a recently created account with few photos or a low number of friends or followers
  • Having a name that doesn’t have any digital footprint

Upon seeing a catfish on an app, it is important to block and report them, so that the app can take their profile down and keep other users safe from romance scams. 

Information Hacks

Apprehension about dating apps may come from highly publicized instances of data breaches relating to dating apps, with the Ashley Madison data breach being a famous example.

Ashley Madison was formed in 2001 to allow married people to cheat on their spouses. In 2015, the company was hacked by a group called The Impact Team, which ultimately released the names of tens of millions of Ashley Madison account users. 

The hackers continued after the initial leak, exposing credit card details, nude photos, and more private information. 

Ashley Madison logo
The Ashley Madison breach exposed the photos and financial information of some 37 million users.

The Ashley Madison incident exposed an inherent insecurity with these platforms, given that it may feel scary to volunteer personal information to an app. Even today, almost 10 years after that notorious data leak, apps are spectacularly bad at protecting users’ information. 

According to the Mozilla Foundation, a global nonprofit that advocates for cyber safety, 25% of dating apps collect metadata from your content, and multiple other apps say they scan your content for information using third-party services to understand your interests. 

Harassment & Cyberstalking

Online harassment is a risk of meeting strangers online, and sometimes the threat enters the real world as well.

As with all forms of dating, stalking and assault can occur. People in the LGBTQIA+ community are disproportionately targeted by harassment. It isn’t difficult to find horror stories about people coming face-to-face with aggressive Tinder matches. 

Screenshot of Tinder's Noonlight app
Noonlight partnered with Tinder to offer faster and more accurate emergency dispatch services so users feel safer when meeting new people.

To mitigate the risks of stalking and assault, some apps have released safety features. Tinder, for example, launched a safety feature that syncs with the personal security app Noonlight, which lets U.S.-based users alert emergency services on a Tinder date. 

Despite such measures, emergency services often aren’t reliably fast — so it’s essential to tell trusted friends or family members that you’re going on an online date or share your location with somebody trustworthy. Additionally, meeting in a public place is a great way to prioritize your safety while getting to know somebody. 

5 Tips for Ensuring Online Dating Privacy

While looking for love online may look like it means compromising your safety, there are easy ways to protect yourself online: 

1. Use Nicknames or Pseudonyms

Avoid putting your full first and last name in a dating profile.

Pseudonyms illustration

Instead, use a nickname or a pseudonym so you ensure that you remain undetectable online while you get to know strangers.

“Opting for a fake name or a pseudonym can add a layer of anonymity and security. It shields your real identity from those with ill intentions, reducing the risk of stalking or identity theft,” wrote Ahiri Chakraborty on Relationship Explained.

Just remember to reveal your real name to your date whenever you feel comfortable with them!

2. Don’t Share Compromising Info or Photos

Be sure to vet your photos before adding them to your profile, as well as the rest of the information on your profile.

Don't share info illustrations

Take ForestVPN’s advice for staying safe on dating apps: “Exercise caution in selecting photos; avoid those disclosing your regular hangouts, friends, residence, or workplace. Opt for images featuring only you, steering clear of potential data leakage.”

For instance, it’s best to avoid posting photos in recognizable locations, such as your workplace or in front of your building number. 

3. Verify the Identity of Your Match

Many apps have implemented user verification checks so that you can engage in the app knowing that your matches are other real people.

Verify your match illustration

Some of those apps include Bumble, Tinder, hinge, OkCupid, and Her.

Generally speaking, it’s always better to stick to apps that verify users for you.

But if that’s not an option for your preferred app, do your own research by asking for your match’s social media profile. 

4.  Pay Attention to Terms & Conditions

Read over privacy settings and metadata details before making a profile on a dating app.

Terms & conditions illustration

According to Terms.Law, “privacy policies serve as the primary tool for informing users about how their data will be managed on a dating website.”

So many apps use information about us, and it’s especially important to be protective of personal information on a dating app. 

5. Trust Your Instincts

If somebody seems sketchy, don’t engage in conversation, and certainly do not go on a date.

Trust your instincts illustration

“At times, a gut reaction is the first thing you will think and feel in a situation. You should pay attention to this because it might be your mind’s way of protecting you from getting hurt by generating a bad gut feeling,” wrote Sylvia Smith on Marriage.com.

Having a potentially fun date is not worth risking your life or your cybersecurity!

Apps Offer Private Chats in a Public Space

Fear of digital insecurity doesn’t have to ruin your fun on dating apps. It’s entirely possible to engage with dating apps in a safe, respectful way. Being secure online requires a little bit more time and attention than just swiping on Tinder. 

If you’re cognizant of privacy settings and practice safe dating etiquette, it’s easy to feel confident participating in online dating. Armed with these tips, you can enter into the exciting world of online dating. 

Dating apps allow users to meet other people they wouldn’t have otherwise encountered, opening the door for brand-new connections, conversations, and potential relationships. Prioritize safety, and finding love will come naturally!