Mozilla discovers that most dating apps inadequately safeguard user data.

Mozilla finds that most dating apps are not great guardians of user data


Dating apps have come under scrutiny for their lax privacy practices, with a recent study by Mozilla highlighting alarming trends. In 2021, Mozilla reviewed 25 dating apps and found that the majority of them, 22 to be precise, earned the lowest grade of “Privacy Not Included.” Only Queer-owned and operated Lex received a positive review, while Harmony and Happn received a passable rating.


According to Mozilla, 80% of the dating apps studied may share or sell users’ personal data for advertising purposes. For instance, Bumble’s privacy clauses were flagged for their ambiguity, potentially allowing the app to sell user data to advertisers. An in-app popup from Bumble stated, “We use services that help improve marketing campaigns . . . Under certain privacy laws, this may be considered selling or sharing your personal information with our marketing partners.”


Furthermore, the study highlighted concerns regarding the collection of precise geolocation data by many dating apps. Apps like Hinge, Tinder, OkCupid, Match, Plenty of Fish, BLK, and BlackPeopleMeet were found to collect users’ precise geolocation data, even when the app is not in use. Hinge, for example, explicitly states in its policy that it may collect geolocation data in the background unless users decline permission for such collection.


The pervasive collection of geolocation data raises significant privacy concerns, especially when users are unaware of or have not consented to such data collection practices. As dating apps continue to prioritize user engagement and monetization, it is crucial for users to be informed about how their personal data is being used and to advocate for stronger privacy protections.


The insidious role of data brokers


Dating apps often justify their extensive data collection by claiming it leads to better matches for users. However, when this data ends up in the hands of data brokers, it can have serious consequences. Last year, The Washington Post reported that a U.S.-based Catholic group purchased data from Grindr to monitor certain members. Grindr, which received one of the lowest ratings in Mozilla’s review, has a history of privacy and security lapses.


Zoë MacDonald, a researcher and one of the authors of the Mozilla report, emphasized the importance of user privacy in dating apps. She stated, “If dating apps think people are going to keep handing over their most intimate data – basically, everything but their mother’s maiden name – without finding love, they’re underestimating their users. Their predatory privacy practices are a dealbreaker.”


Data from analytics firm indicates a slowdown in dating app downloads, while Pew Research data from last year shows that only three in 10 adults have ever used a dating site or app, a figure that has remained stagnant since 2019. Additionally, recent reports have highlighted significant losses in market value for dating app giants Match Group and Bumble.


the current state of the online dating industry, highlighting a slowdown in app downloads and stagnant user growth. According to, there’s a notable deceleration in the rate at which people are downloading dating apps. Moreover, Pew Research data from the previous year reveals that the percentage of adults who have used dating sites or apps has remained steady at three in 10 since 2019. This suggests that the market may be reaching a saturation point or that user preferences are evolving. Furthermore, reports indicate substantial declines in market value for leading dating app companies like Match Group and Bumble. These trends underscore the challenges faced by dating app platforms amid changing user behaviors and market dynamics.


In response to changing trends, companies are exploring new strategies to engage potential users, including the use of AI-powered features. Match Group announced plans to leverage AI during its Q3 2024 earnings, while Grindr reportedly plans to introduce an AI chatbot capable of engaging in sexually explicit language. However, researchers like Misha Rykov from Mozilla raise concerns about the privacy implications of these developments.


Rykov emphasizes that as dating apps collect more data, they have a responsibility to protect it from exploitation. With the integration of generative AI, there are growing concerns about the adequacy of privacy protections in dating apps. Mozilla’s evaluation of AI bots earlier this year also raised serious concerns about security and data sharing practices.

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