Are your parents married? Do you sing along at concerts? Have you ever asked to speak to a manager? These are questions that popular dating apps like OkCupid and Plenty of Fish ask when you sign up. These sorts of prompts, and other information you provide when you sign up for a dating app, give the service what it needs to help find you a partner. It’s also just a sliver of the data that dating apps collect about you.

People tend to be more willing to share personal information if it means finding love, but there are a few considerations to keep in mind before you hand over heaps of personal information in the name of finding the one. Zoë MacDonald is a content creator for Mozilla’s Privacy Not Included, privacy guide — and has helped the team study numerous apps like Tinder, Hinge, and Plenty of Fish. The first consideration to keep in mind is that all of those apps, and more, are owned by the same company.

“Match Group owns 45 dating apps across various niches,” says Zoë. “That raises privacy concerns. That means your information can be shared with the parent company, but also then across all those apps, and then used for targeted advertising.” Imagine Match using your information from Tinder to affect your Hinge. Match Group doesn’t admit to doing this, but nothing is stopping the conglomerate from doing so if it wants.

The second consideration is how companies handle the data they’ve collected. Studies show how Match Group apps like Tinder and OkCupid share user data with advertisers. And when Mozilla’s Privacy Not Included guide studied the apps, all eight of the Match Group apps were dinged in the data use category. (Even non-Match Group apps are guilty here. The dating app Grindr collected users’ precise location data and sold it secretly for years.)

Concerns with AI and Dating Apps

Another worry is artificial intelligence. Using machine learning to help users find matches can be useful, but how those systems work isn’t exactly transparent. “A lot of apps are integrating AI in a way that could be very innovative and interesting,” says Zoë. “At the same time what we’re seeing with integrated AI in products is that there’s not enough information about how the AI works, or how it applies to your personal data and privacy.”

One way dating apps use AI is with facial recognition tech. Apps like Tinder and Hinge use facial recognition tech to verify users and limit catfishing. Both Tinder and Hinge specify how long they keep information about your face that they gather from selfie verification videos, but combining dating apps’ facial recognition know-how with the numerous photos the apps have on each user worries some. Apryl Williams is a senior Mozilla fellow, professor at University of Michigan and author of the book Not My Type: Automating Sexual Racism in Online Dating. Apryl worries about her loved ones’ faces on these platforms. “It’s scary to think that there might be facial recognition scanning all of our uploaded pictures,” says Apryl. “Some people put pictures up with their nieces, nephews and kids. Do we want data out there of the little people in our lives? Just the idea that they have this huge ongoing data collection of users that people may not know about is really distressing.”

Apryl’s fear is not for nothing. In 2022, the FTC filed a petition to learn more about how Match Group’s OkCupid could train facial recognition software without user knowledge or user consent.

How To Find Out What Data Dating Apps Like Tinder Collect On You

Dating apps may help you find love but there isn’t anything loving about collecting gobs of users’ personal information — especially if there’s a chance that Tinder, Hinge and OkCupid are all comparing notes because they’re all owned by Match. “As a skeptic, I worry that companies like Match Group will use ads and the data it collects to keep you bouncing from one app to another,” says Zoë. “When it comes to dating apps, I’d suggest proceeding with caution. Only give out this information with the understanding that once you give it up you almost always lose complete control over it.”

But what about the data you’ve already handed over? Apryl suggests downloading it. “You can request your data from Tinder,” says Apryl. All AI chatbots may not offer the option yet but apps like Tinder, Hinge and even non-Match Group apps like Bumble will let you keep a copy of your data. “When I downloaded my data, they had every picture I had uploaded when I joined the site, every match in my match deck and every message I’d ever sent. If you have the time, you should request your data and think about what that means for your privacy. What might these apps be doing with that data? Whose hands does it go into if they’re data sharing across different platforms (which we know dating apps do)? Really think about how you’re curating your profile, what types of information you’re sharing and what it means that an app like Tinder has all of this data readily available on you.”

Dating Apps And Your User Privacy — What To Keep In Mind

Written By: Xavier Harding

Edited By: Audrey Hingle, Kevin Zawacki, Tracy Kariuki

Art By: Shannon Zepeda