woman looking at phone with laptop in front of her

No, it wasn’t fate – it was data

So, by now you may have realised that I’m not that keen about online dating – but I have my reasons!

Obviously there are always two sides to a story, so I know that online dating isn’t all that bad, after all 49 million people have tried it.

However recently, after briefly mentioning it in my last post, I thought I’d investigate algorithms and the data side of online dating, further.

As I mentioned on my voice and tone page as soon as I find something interesting, I want you to be the first to hear about it. So, in this post I wanted to talk more about the different side of online dating – one which, naturally, you may not have given much thought about.

Image of glasses in front of a computer that has data on it

Data and algorithms can be a great thing, we know this because the majority of popular dating sites use them. In fact, Match.com believe they are responsible for a third of all online relationships that led to marriage and that their algorithms offer the chance for people to connect online with others who they may not have contacted before.

Your Data

But how much do we really know about the use of our data? Do you know who The Match Group are? I didn’t know this until recently but The Match Group are an American Internet Company that own several dating sites including OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, Tinder and Match.com.

If you are on any dating sites, have you looked at the privacy guidelines that they have provided? That’s great if you have, but have you looked to see if they will share your data with third parties? You might be on OkCupid, but as they are part of The Match Group does your data get shared with all the other companies that are in that group? Something to bear in mind anyway.

How valuable is our data?

It was also rumoured that from 2012 to 2014, Facebook hinted in emails that certain companies could have access to their users’ data if they spent more than $250,000 in advertising on their platform – this came at a time when Facebook was limiting the amount of data that apps could access when visiting the platform.

What’s more, the rumours went further to suggest that Tinder would be given free access with no limitations to the users’ data, in exchange for Facebook to be able to use Tinder’s ‘Moments’ Trademark. Apparently Facebook denied these allegations but the article highlighted the concerning fact that this story could be believable – in today’s society, our data is valuable, so how far will companies go to get this data?

In 2017, Judith Duportail, a journalist from The Guardian wrote an article about the time when she asked Tinder to send her all of the data that they had collected about her (you have a legal right to request this information) – she received 800 pages worth of data, including conversations she had had, her education, location, job interests and more.

Image of laptop with multicoloured light shone on it

She continued to mention how this data could also affect what job offers she can see on LinkedIn, how much she pays for car insurance and more. I never realised how big data is – so much information is collected about us that can have an impact on our future and we wouldn’t even know – crazy, right?


But what happens when data goes wrong, when tech fails? Data breaches occur and it can be pretty serious.

In fact in recent years, many articles have been released exposing different dating sites of accidentally leaking location data, by not having tight enough security regulations.

For example, this article explains how Grindr was exposed when a third party app was able to identify users’ locations.

The app called ‘F*cker’ was able to hack Grindr’s API and use a technique called trilateration (as GPS satellites broadcast their location and time, trilateration measures the distance from those satellites to your location) now I don’t know much about trilateration…

(pronouncing the word is hard enough, be my guest – try and say it. Well now you just look weird. Look up from your screen. See that guy over there? He’s judging you right now 😉 )

…but this sort of exposure could lead to harassment and stalking and could enable homophobic predators to identify where these users are.

man and woman on beach, holding each other, looking at sunset

Do algorithms work for online dating?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to scare you out of online dating, after all, when 14,000 people (who were either engaged or recently married) were surveyed, 19% of them said they had met their partner online and the majority of the time, algorithms and data work in our favour.

For example, a study was conducted to determine how effective algorithms are in online dating when creating match suggestions.

This study chose a standard dating site which was not named and analysed their data to produce mate preferences before using the ‘Gale Shaplay’ algorithm to predict matching outcomes.

Interestingly what they found was that the matches that they had created from this algorithm, were very similar to what the dating site had suggested, therefore the site was effective in using data to create well-made matches that also had similar sorting patterns in marriages.

So there you have it, algorithms can be a good thing, bloody complicated but worth it if they’re going to help you find a hubby/wife I guess – but just remember the info you put out on the internet stays there, might be worth having a look at your privacy settings.

References for this post:

BBC News., 2012. Cupid’s algorithm: Do dating sites know love’s formula? [online]. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-17017963 [Accessed 14th December 2018].

Brookes, A., 2018. 21 Amazing Online Dating Statistics — The Good, Bad & Weird (2018) [online]. US: DatingAdvice.com. Available from: https://www.datingadvice.com/online-dating/online-dating-statistics [Accessed 13th December 2018].

Capon, T., 2018. Another security breach at Grindr reveals users’ exact location [online]. Available from: https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/another-security-breach-at-grindr-reveals-users-exact-location/#gs.nAbuXk0 [Accessed 17th December 2018].

Duportail, J., 2017. I asked Tinder for my data. It sent me 800 pages of my deepest, darkest secrets. The Guardian [online], 26th September 2017. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/26/tinder-personal-data-dating-app-messages-hacked-sold [Accessed 16th December 2018].

Harvey, S., 2018. Facebook Considered Swapping User Data for Tinder Trademark [online]. Available from: https://globaldatinginsights.com/2018/12/03/facebook-considered-swapping-user-data-for-tinder-trademark/?platform=hootsuite [Accessed 15th December 2018].

Hitsch, G, Hortaçsu, A, Ariely, D., 2010. Matching and Sorting in Online Dating [online], Vol. 100:1, 130-163.

Matthews, H., 2017. Online Dating Statistics: Dating Stats from 2017 [online]. Available from: https://www.zoosk.com/date-mix/online-dating-advice/online-dating-statistics-dating-stats-2017/ [Accessed 18th December 2018].

One thought on “No, it wasn’t fate – it was data”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *