Apps Making Online Dating Safer (Sort of)

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Modern life is safer than ever, but the dating scene is still a jungle. Danger can lurk around every corner. When it comes to going online, security can be hard to come by.

Fortunately, some apps take user safety seriously and strive to protect those who play with their hearts and parts below.

What is “security”?

The search for a potential life, or a one-night mate, is inherently risky. So what do we mean by doing “without issue”?

The most apparent peril is physical. Meeting a strange man can lead to someone starring in their own True Crime docuseries. An evening that starts with a drink and a little chat can end in kidnapping, mugging, or even murder.

If you scoff or roll your eyes calling out the men above, please come back to reality.

The overwhelming majority of women (cis and trans) assaulted or murdered in the United States are the victims of men. Highlighting a few cases does not change the sad reality.

The danger goes beyond bodily harm. There is also mental health to consider. Harassment is rampant on the internet with threatening messages and non-consensual photos.

Bumblebee was created specifically for this reason by giving straight women looking for men the choice to make the first move.

On Bumblebeewomen have to send the first message to men, which prevents them from being inundated with scary messages and rude images.

Privacy is also a big concern, and not just for dating apps. Hacks and leaks expose people’s private data, including phone numbers, their place of work, and even their home address.

So how do you best navigate the minefield of app-based login?

Blind spots and easy mistakes

When there is new technology, there will always be a need for improvement. With the rapidly growing world of app-based alliances, there were more than a few blind spots when it came to user security.

Early 2020, approximately 70,000 photos of women on tinder were stolen and leaked online. This came two years after the company was told by digital security companies that there was a lack of basic encryption for their users’ information.

Oh dear.

To be fair, data security is an issue for any web service. Encryption and data mining are dizzyingly complex issues that often miss vulnerabilities until the damage is done. tinder isn’t the only one to have data stolen, as almost every app and site you can think of has had this at least once.

Major apps have taken bold steps, with some causing more harm than good.

paste with tinder, background check and photo verification have been put in place to defend against catfishing. However, both have been proven inaccurate and disproportionately impact people of color.

Why? Well, in terms of photo verification, visual algorithms struggle to deal with darker skin tones and non-Anglo features. It’s a complex question that was explored in Netflix’s remarkable documentary Coded bias and a feature segment on Last week tonight with John Oliver.

Equally complex and troubling is the disparity in the arrests of people of color compared to white people. The data showed that in the United States Black and Hispanic men are more than four times more likely to be incarcerated than white Americans on similar charges.

Combine these technological and systematic bias issues, and it’s clear that even fucking apps are vulnerable.

In case of harassment, apps like tinder have been slow to make meaningful changes. A douchey user can be flagged, but there are ways around it, like deleting and blocking one side so the evidence goes away.

Screening processes are also rather lax, with hundreds of reports confirming that minors and even registered sex offenders are creating accounts without a hitch.

promotional screenshots from tinder

Don’t want to work tinder, it should be noted that there have been improvements in recent years. The new “Panic Button” feature announced in January 2020 allows people to upload their date details in advance and alert emergency services with location data when used.

Even apps designed with women’s safety in mind have had to make changes in recent years. The biggest and most famous is, of course, Bumblebee.

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Creating a Buzz – Bumble’s Backstory

Former Vice President of Marketing for tinder, Whitney Wolfe Herd has quit the online dating giant after settling a sexual harassment and discrimination case against the company. She came up with the idea for a female-centric dating app and created Bumblebee.

The idea was simple: heterosexual women send the opening message when matched with a man. No more unsolicited and despicable messages from unknown men.

At least not as an opening.

buzz on the phone

The idea may seem simple and inconsequential, but changing the power dynamic of who initiates contact makes a major difference. Ask any woman how fun it is when a guy she doesn’t want to talk to texts her first and she ignores him.

Spoilers: Not very fun at all.

Entire subreddits are dedicated to the insane and ridiculous ways men talk about possible dates. More often than not, things go from civilian to black very quickly. Bumblebee may be one of the safer free options, but it’s not without its problems.

BumblebeeThe site has several self-protection blog posts, but there’s not much to it. There is no foolproof code or program that can stop abusive language or behavior before it happens.

Not yet anyway.

Reporting abuse helps, but as mentioned earlier, there are ways to go unnoticed. The team at Bumblebee accepted the challenge and made changes to features such as blocking and incompatibility.

In the past, when a couple was unmatched, the text chat disappeared. This would prevent the victim of abuse from reporting the abuser and banning them. Now the conversation disappears only for the one who has no equal.

It’s a good idea and Bumblebee constantly making improvements. Unfortunately, the biggest problem is one that cannot be fixed.

People.

RELATED: Does Bumble For Hookups? One man’s take on “women’s dating app”

User Error – Problems Beyond Code

Unfortunately, applications are still vulnerable and, by extension, their users.

Subscription and premium membership offers still have weaknesses that can be exploited. Sure, it could be a small exhaust port, no bigger than a Womp Rat, but it’s there.

Even with expensive encryption and teams of experts to quickly tackle catfishing and harassment, this would only cover life on the app and not the real world.

The only solution that ensures everyone can play the field safely is a major cultural shift to combat misogyny, racism, and patriarchy.

Yeah. Now you can roll your eyes.

There is a better chance of being eaten by a winning lottery shark. By being struck by lightning.

Hope is not lost however. Societal attitudes are teetering in the right direction, albeit slowly. Every day big companies send out updates and create new features like the ones mentioned above.

Other unique applications are introduced such as those from the UK Naked, an appeal-focused hookup app for diverse, “open-minded” singles. The fundraising promo video promises innovative and accurate screening and verification. Naked also allows users to crop their photos to hide personal information.

It’s not perfect, but it’s a good start.

IRL – 10 Tips to Stay Safe on Dating Apps

woman in a bar on a date

Getting ahead will always be a gamble, but there’s no reason to push your chips further than necessary.

Here are some common sense tips when you’re on the app and in town:

  1. Do your research – Shop around and research to find the best security features and reviews.
  2. Choose photos carefully – Pay attention to what is in the background of your photos. Free editing apps will allow you to scramble ID details.
  3. Reverse Image Search – Use a reverse image search site to verify photos. If their photo was stolen from somewhere else online, that should tell you.
  4. Defend your territory – Make report and block buttons your friends.
  5. Try new apps – Don’t be afraid to try a newly released app. The pool may be smaller, but safer.
  6. tell a friend – Let someone know where you are going and with whom.
  7. Location – Share your location data with a trusted friend with apps like WhatsApp
  8. Be reasonable – Choose the place for the first date, a public place that you know well. Always have transportation to get away if necessary.
  9. Look through their social networks – Ask for your date’s social media handles so you can look through and see if they appear to be real.
  10. Trust your instincts – If your spider-sense kicks in, trust it.

It’s a jungle, but female-focused apps like Bumblebee and tinderNew features do their best to keep monsters at bay. In order to keep everyone safe while they’re busy, programmers can’t do much until the responsibility shifts to users.

Attitudes and systems need to change, and that can be done when enough people come together and speak up.

Cybersecurity is reactive in nature, not proactive, which means that problems are only solved when they become too big to ignore. Let the people who create and control these apps know what needs to be done to keep everyone safe, both online and in real life.

The power is literally in your hands.

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