Maintaining privacy on your dating profile

Protecting your safety on a revealing medium using technology

Illustration of a plug with the cord forming a heart: Sam Bullis

Illustration: Sam Bullis

Dating profiles can reveal a huge amount of information about your social, political, and sexual interests.

It’s always an interesting process to navigate your own comfort zone between sharing enough information to convey a clear sense of who you are, and withholding enough to maintain control over the security of your identity.

Few need to be told that online dating is risky business as most of us already know at least one person who has a cautionary tale or two.

Perhaps it’s the inability to healthily accept rejection, and the deeply-ingrained sense of entitlement that many seem to have around matters of sexual and romantic relationships.

Whatever the reason, online dating can give the least savoury characters access to personal information about you. Fortunately, it’s possible to drastically reduce their ability to gain access to your other online presences with a few simple data-management measures.

The innovations of reverse image search have revolutionized the way that images online can be tracked to their source. While this is has useful applications, it also gives dangerous users an easy method with which to trace a photo on your profile back to other online sources.

A good rule of thumb for users that don’t want their online dating profile linked to other online profiles, is to not to use any photographs that have been used before on another profile or website viewable to the public. This can be particularly important if the other web presence contains other contact or location information.

Another potentially revealing source of information is metadata.

Metadata is information stored within the photo file that can’t be seen by simply viewing the image. Some applications can decode this information, which can include data on everything from the camera used to take the image to the specific location it was taken. This information can make it fairly easy to learn more than you may want to reveal to strangers on a dating site.

While many of the major dating sites appear to wipe metadata from your images, it’s generally a good rule of thumb to do it yourself before you upload as well.

There are a number of freeware applications will eliminate this information from your photos. It’s not a bad idea to do the same with privately shared photos should you choose to send them to someone you don’t yet know well.

When going on a new date, it’s also wise to ensure that someone else knows where you’re going. This can be as simple as texting a friend where you’re going to be.

There are also safety-oriented apps available for situations like this. Kitestring sends a prewritten message from you to a chosen friend if you haven’t “checked in” with the app within a predetermined amount of time.

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Maintaining privacy on your dating profile