Online Dating: Are You Swiping Left on Your Privacy?

Last week, I joined MANA’s National President and CEO Amy Hinojosa for the first in a series of luncheon events on the politics of privacy at the AT&T Forum for Technology and Innovation.

 

These luncheons are designed to address why women, communities of color and underserved communities, such as the LGBT community, have specific and different privacy concerns than other groups and should take online and data privacy even more seriously. This first discussion in the series touched on a number of issues related to online privacy, and specifically how your personal privacy is affected when using online dating platforms.

 

Opening up the conversation, Amy and I touched on the harms associated with the collection and usage of data from these deceptively harmless dating and online communication services and applications.

 

To demonstrate this point, I shared the example of the recent sale of Grindr, an online dating and geosocial networking platform for the LGBT community, to Kunlan, a Chinese gaming company. A sale of this nature can be incredibly dangerous and concerning for the individuals involved in unexpected ways. The application holds a bevy of location data, messages and even sensitive health related data including HIV status that, if put in the wrong hands, could be used to directly target and identify members of the LGBT users of the platform—some of which who wish to remain anonymous. And, to add more fuel to the fire, selling a company holding this type of sensitive data to a country, such as China, with very different data collection and usage standards as well as laws, could create a number of other privacy concerns and issues as well. This, sadly, is just one example of the very scary global reality of the sharing and manipulation of personal data being shared online.

 

Data collection and usage is a double edged sword. While data can be used in a way to help target and meet the specific needs and wants of a consumer or pinpoint specifics when looking for a potential romantic partner, it can also hurt the end user by potentially providing too much sensitive information to bad actors in any given situation.

 

We need to take action now to make sure that this sensitive data isn’t being used in the wrong way and that legislators make it a point to develop strong, common sense federal privacy laws that will protect all people; including minority, female, LGBT and any other underserved communities.

 

It is important that groups like LGBT Tech and MANA continue to have these types of educational discussions and that we continue to push for legislation that helps to keep our sensitive information safe in this ever-evolving digital world. 

 

To view the full webcast of the event, click here.

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