Dating site content held in question. Pish!

I know I may be jumping in at the deep end or guilty of a knee jerk reaction but there’s a comment in the press – specific to dating sites – that says that we don’t blog enough content. Pish!

Alright, the guy who’s posted the article freely admits that, in his role checking out what dating sites actually offer their membership he doesn’t spend all of his working hours trawling their blogs to see what they’re writing. But for us dating sites that put a helluva lot of work into crafting our posts and trying to develop a theme and a purpose, you can see why we’d perhaps take offence at such a comment.

It is our strong conviction that words are the very essence of the Internet and healthy, enjoyable content serves two very distinct purposes. One is to satisfy the search engines in order to make our online dating facility visible to you, the singles public, to put the very best dating facilities firmly within your grasp.

And secondly, more importantly, the online dating industry is now a $2bn global industry – innovations, new technology, dating events such as iDate Miami – if it wasn’t for us bloggers writing about them here on our dating sites, how would you, avid reader, ever get to hear of the advances that are taking place?  And I’m not even going to start about the dating site security issues we’ve regularly covered in the interests of keeping the millions of singles safe from fraudsters who are only after one thing, and it’s not your modesty!

Matchmaking sites, for instance, are always tweaking their coupling algorithms and using new methods to bring singles together – hundreds of men and women with letters after their names scratching their heads in underground laboratories in order to help you meet Mr or Mrs Right. Their work would go unnoticed if we didn’t bring their amazing feats to your attention.

Would you, for example, be even aware that a relationship could be started by a dating site that matches you with a potential partner based upon your DNA? Okay, it’s not been scientifically proven that this method works any better than other scientific formulae applied to parship but it does have its own success stories, like any of the other mainstream dating sites.

See – you probably didn’t even know that a sample of your spit could do so much for you, did you? And this gentleman has the gall to say we don’t big up the content enough on our blogs! The very nerve of the man.

Please, show your appreciation – drop us a comment about our dating site content, or if there’s something you would like to see us write about that we’ve not covered already (use the search box, below – there’s not much we haven’t covered over the last six months, to be fair). Other than that, join me again tomorrow, where we’ll have some more riveting content to share with you, dear reader. Until then, adieu. And you won’t have come across that word anywhere else today, I’ll bet. x

Drive wipe facility not available on dating site hard drive

Following on from the report of how Grindr was embarrassingly easily hacked last month and the effect that the release of such information, if the hacker chose to download and distribute it, would have on the dating site’s members, our next two articles look at how you may want to delete your information. This sounds like a great idea, but there are two problems with actuating that decision.

The first indirect problem is in itself twofold. If, having been the victim of a bitch campaign or been warned about your dating site activity if you hold a position of responsibility within the community or at work, yet you want to carry on using your site, you can choose to delete your ‘you’ profile and create an alter-ego to continue using the service.

The first issue with this scenario is proving your ‘other self’ as an entity if someone who is attracted to your dating site profile requests you to do so. By creating an imaginary online persona you are inadvertently mirroring the steps taken by scammers worldwide. You may also be in breach of the dating site’s guidelines by doing this, but that’s not the real problem. You are rendering the security facilities being adopted by the world of online dating globally, which allow users to align their dating profiles with an online verification of their identity. The first biggie we reported on was Trusted Faces but there are more coming along as the growth of scammers mirrors the increase in volume of new dating site sign-ups.

Even if you do eventually choose to create a new profile using an adopted name, which, to be successful in any real sense, has to incorporate an image that is at least a little like you, you can still be Geo-tagged. More about that in the following article.

But the second real issue is the deletion of your original account. According to one recent study, facebook retains your photographs for two and a half years on its servers after you have deleted your account. And they’re not alone in doing this. Dating sites the world over are guilty of the exact same practise. Their excuse for doing so has its core in the fact that, should the member’s relationship not work out, they may well want to reactivate the account they cancelled due to their change in circumstances.

As was the case in September last year when a judge ordered the release of Twitter and facebook passwords so that evidence could be presented of infidelity in a divorce court, the dating site’s privacy policies will not protect you by not sharing your information if the law comes knocking. Putting the two together, the longevity dating sites hold your data and their inability to stave off legal access to that information, you are warned here and now that anything you do or say, drunk or sober, on your dating or social networking site may be used against you (or someone else) in a court of law long after you have deleted your account.

The moral is, be careful what you say in the public domain – one day it may just come back and bite you on the ass when you’re least expecting it. Next up – steps to take to avoid this dilemma.

Sorry, have I seen your face before? You look familiar…

In our previous article, we were informed about the fact that dating sites hold on to your account details in case we choose to reinstate our account, possibly for an indefinite period and that facebook retain our details for two and a half years.

The provider of that information, Rainey Reitman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, also suggests that photographs we upload to our dating site or social media platform may be given an indefinite home on servers external to that of the website we have made our online dating home. This all makes it so much easier for social media sites to build up a picture of you even if you have just browsed their site. If they have your IP address from your visit and that information is stored in a deleted account somewhere in dating cyberspace, they already know a lot more about you when you sign up than you think they do, even if you’ve only clicked through and looked at one photograph of a potential partner in the past.

As promised, Mr Reitman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has provided some key information about how you can avoid this anonymous detection or, if the dating site is not that sophisticated, you can throw them a few less-advanced curveballs to put them off your scent.

As when they teach you internet marketing, sign up for a free e-mail address in the pseudonym which you’ll use to join your dating site and use it only for that purpose. When you’re done with the dating site, bin the e-mail account.

Never give the site your personal information unless you absolutely have to. This includes your name (the real one) and most definitely any credit or debit card information. You may not have information where this is stored, even after you close your account.

If you can stretch to it or find a free one, use a VPN (virtual private network). These are not bad services and often run a broadband service cheaper than you’d get through a telephone line rental company. What effect that gives you is, even though you log on as normal, it diverts all communication in a very real time manner through their network and IP address so that the dating site’s servers cannot trace your IP to you. Clever stuff.

Other advice, from Help Net Security, touches on your dating site profile photo, or galleries. If the photo of you has been tagged, there is an excellent chance that the image will be stored on an external server in perpetuity. There are services that allow you to search for an image online anywhere, such as tin-eye. When signing up under a pseudonym, either scan to see if a previous picture of you is stored anywhere online or upload a brand new one and attach it to your alter-ego’s profile under its name!

And lastly, before you sign up to a dating site, if keeping your real name discreet is a must, check out the sites t’s & c’s. They should disclose if they make any of your information, including the photo, searchable to the crawlers of the biggest engines, giving you (and them, of course) maximum coverage. If you do not want to be widely known as using a dating site that uses this facility, then either sign up following the guidelines above for anonymity or do not sign up at all.

And if you leave a bad comment on dating.org.uk about today’s articles, trust me when I say, I know who you are and I will come and find you! (joke)

Grindr hacked, sensitive men’s bits slipped into wrong hands

If you’ve followed dating.org.uk‘s ‘news’ for some time, you’ll know that we’re hot on dating site security. If there’s a new app or extension we learn about, we try to let you know about it as soon as we do.

So when we saw this latest post about a breach of dating site security, we naturally checked it out. However, we were quite surprised when we comprehended the nature and depth of this particular security breach; it wasn’t directly another story of woe about an innocent victim who’d been taken in by a false dating site profile purporting to be a genuine love seeker and given them their life savings.

This breach of security was on a much larger scale and targeted a dating app rather than an online dating site. And we’re not just talking one or two people – according to one recent report, 100,000 users on gay dating site Grindr not only had their dating profile hacked by one unscrupulous individual but also then had the indignity of the identity thief pretend to be them on the dating site.

This is the second such report of dating site hacking on a large scale this year. Grindr is specifically for gay gentlemen who can download the app on their Smartphone and be notified when another subscriber to the service is in the vicinity. A little bit like a booster to their inherent gaydar, if you like.

As well as any financial information the hacker may have had access to, the hacker was able to see all of their tagged ‘favourites’, update, delete and amend details of their dating profile and user photo, chat to other members pretending to be the registered member as well as seeing who’d been sending them what photos and actually impersonate their favourite and hold a conversation with them.

Needless to say, Grindr got to work on their security system as the amount of damaging information that was accessed – well, in the wrong hands personal chats, photos and adventures into the land of promiscuity could be lethal if it belonged to an authoritative figure. A mandatory update was issued, after the Sydney Morning Herald interviewed an anonymous dating site security expert who revealed that Grindr – and its lesbian/heterosexual offshoot Blendr – had hardly any security whatsoever. As such, it was no surprise that such large scale penetration was easy on the gay site. Ooh, err.

The other dating site to recently have had its security breached was Tuff Scruff, a site ran by the fairer sex on Tumblr (has evryone forgotten their e’s?) who like a bit of fluff around their men’s chins. After being hacked, the ladies logged on to find that photos of their facially-haired fancy-men had been switched for women revealing bearded clams, rather than the bearded faces of their dreamboats.

No security system is 100% safe. If you want to keep your dating life online completely separate from the real you, we have some excellent advice coming next from around the world of online security that you can impart on your dating site, or for any other online persona you wish to create.

The common downsides of the free online dating service

There are one or two things you should watch out for if you opt for a free dating site, which make their money mainly through advertising. There is often little left in the pot to stretch to on-site security and vetting of sign-up members as a direct result. You should never give out any sensitive information on dating sites, anyway, but on free platforms this goes double as the person to whom you’re chatting may not have been checked out at all. Things are getting better, but until there is a uniform minimum level of dating site security, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Another ingenious way a few free dating site webmasters have found to top up their income (these are the exception, not the rule, we believe) is by selling their ‘list’. That list being anyone who has signed up for their dating site since they started up or as long as they can legally hold on to that information. If they’re immoral enough to sell their list, it is also likely they’ll plead ignorance to any charges of holding on to your data past the legal time limit.

This may be of little consequence to you now but, in a few years time when you’re perhaps with a partner who was unaware of your dating site history, it may cause a whole load of hassle between you and your partner when you start getting bombarded with e-mails asking if you’re still ‘up for a one-night stand’, or whatever you disclosed to the site in the past.

And if you’re looking for long term relationships based on in-depth compatibility studies, you’re best off looking to upgrade to a paid matchmaking service who have gained their brand and reputation by being able to deliver whatever it is you’re looking for (there are different horses for different courses). You may only encounter people who are only using the free service for a bit of fling, chat or giggle and not in it for a serious, long term commitment, so it’s best to be aware of the site’s inclinations before you expend time and energy on a lost cause from the outset.

So, in a nutshell – free dating’s great for learning the ropes and a quick scout of who’s dating in your area, but not exactly secure and populated, in the main, by youngsters getting the hang of online dating and perhaps not into relationships seriously enough to go the extra mile and stump up a few quid to find a partner online with whom they’re truly matched.

Security checks now a must for Canada online dating

According to a recent report, one human resources firm has insisted that all new sign ups for the new dating sites to which it supplies staff must run criminal background checks on its membership before it will provide admin to help run their business.

Many dating sites who handle thousands of new memberships each week rely on outsourcing manpower to handle the processes involved. Every dating site has customer support issues that arise, handling complaints, payment and affiliate programs to administer. Someone has to deal with those issues and the entrepreneurs who deal with the advertising, marketing and branding of their sites are not the best at handling the mundane issues that arise of this nature, purely down to their make up.

But how does a dating site that has been up and running for a vested amount of time start the process of vetting its membership – possibly millions of singles, some active accounts, some not – without going to huge expense and time? Somebody will have to pay for all of those extra hours and that finance won’t be coming from the profits of the business, that’s for sure. More likely, any extra revenue envisaged will come from a direct increase in membership fees from existing registered users.

How will free dating sites raise this extra finance? There are certain proceeds from advertising, but that may not stretch to a widget designed to validate a member’s whiter than white criminal history upon sign up, especially if those doing the vetting are charging for the privilege.

What it may do is push members of paid dating sites, who do not want to pay increased fees, back into the world of free dating sites. This is bad news for the paid services who may see a sector of their membership leave, but good news for scammers. Why? Having to pay for a membership is usually enough to put off scammers; vetting them would keep out a greater volume.  Therefore, they spend a lot of time on free dating sites, taking easy pickings from those members who are not as experienced in dating online as those who have realised that paid services offer so much more.

The good news for the paid dating services is that having a security app this powerful may attract a whole new influx of members who have been put off from online dating in the past due to being subject to the possibility of being hijacked by a scam. The risk for dating sites
is will be whether the new market is bigger than the one being jeopardised by any rise in fees?

How secure can dating sites be made?

How much responsibility can an online dating agency take when a date turns disastrously wrong?

Site admin can only do so much to vet its membership, unless we are talking about high-end dating sites for professionals which charge exorbitant fees from the layman’s point of view, but are the others doing enough?

On both sides of the pond, there is a lack of regulation by the authorities, both when policing sign-ups and, indeed, monitoring people who become dating site start-ups.

Any screening is done at the point of sign-up. With a paid dating site service, one-to-one calls are becoming more and more the norm, where the value is in the monthly fee to make the practise financially viable. Typically, where the facility is a free dating service, there is not enough capital in the business to be so personal; any inquisition into a specific member is left to the dating site community itself.

How far can the authorities get involved?

If dating sites were not so popular, there may be an argument for for authority involvement. However, when social media and personals sites can attract over 100 million members in less than one year, it would mean creating a huge department just to oversee one site.

The US have took a gigantic step in protecting its citizens when interacting with non-US citizens. As the largest target market for scammers, this has grown from necessity rather than choice, but in 2007, the Intl. Marriage Broker Act was introduced, which has put the onus legally for international dating service providers to ensure the safety of its US members.

Who owns the dating sites – are they accountable?

As things stand, anyone with the money can buy a dating-site-in-a-box and have it up and on-line within days. There is little or no vetting process for new owners – cash is all that matters.

There are successful entrepreneurs who actually franchise their site and even share their membership with affiliates until they grow their own rank so that they are self-supporting. Again, it is at this point that extra screening measures could be enforced and make the dating site owners accept some of the responsibility for the new members it allows to sign up for their dating facility.

What warnings should legally be enforced on dating sites?

Sites like ours, dating.org.uk, constantly monitor the dating site headlines and therefore look to highlight possible scams as they break, such as constant updates about 419 Fraud.

However, as we do not own a dating site, only seek to sort the best of those on the net, we cannot control what measures they take to protect its membership.

It would be encouraging to see a standardised warning, or a self-regulated body that recognised dating sites can sign up to as an adjudicating organisation, by which the dating site community can draw some confidence when signing up. Much like the ‘Gas Safe’ register in the UK, whereby consumers look for that assured standard before calling upon their services.

Like it or not, no system will ever totally infallible, even those that call on governmental records. The choice will always be down to the individual to discern whether the individual you are considering dating is trustworthy, or not.

A kick up your masquerade balls

There are better ways of instigating an online dating relationship than sending your correspondent a private message which goes along the lines of ‘I like the look of you, but I’m not sure whether you’re a scammer, a stalker or a pervert so I’m gonna get you’re background checked before I give you the time of day.’

However, that is the very real prospect facing dating site members the world over, if you’re not joining an exclusive dating site where members are individually interviewed as part of the service fee. Quite usually, with free dating sites, the revenue comes purely from sponsorship and advertising, so there is very little capital remaining to vet members at all; this is one of the down sides of using this sector of the market over the generally more secure paid dating site niche.

For some years, internet fraud has been recognised by the authorities for what it is: serious, organised crime. As online dating site numbers grow, so do the fraudsters, trained to expert level to engender trust in gullible singles before duping them into sending cash, predominantly to Africa where the majority of these gangsters are based. Some of the volumes are staggering and it is only by working with the dating site community that investigative authorities can hope to put an end to this practise, which has blighted the industry for too long.

verification apps offering more dating site protection than ever

There are state-specific applications available in the US to help combat this issue; providing you are dating an American citizen, some sites are now supporting the program which allows you to double check a potential partner’s credentials against US government records.

In the UK, things are gathering pace even faster. Already we have Trusted Faces – a membership which not only confirms your identity against a snap taken at an official UK post office but also allows you to include other forms of your internet presence and contact details, such as your Twitter user name and e-mail address, respectively. It is very much your online passport.

New, exclusive matchmaking site PDA are very excited about the advent of a ‘Clare’s Law’. This will protect women against an even greater fear – the threat of physical abuse. It is hoped that, once this legislation passes the regulatory standards necessary, it will provide a window into any dating prospect’s criminal past. If there is a history of any sort, it will be there for all to see, so that dating site profiles cannot provide a mask for something altogether more unsavoury, beyond.

It is in everyone’s interest to make the world of online dating a safe and fun place to (hopefully) meet your Mr. or Mrs. Right without fear of any sort; it looks like we’re getting there, albeit one step at a time.