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How to Prevent Stalking While Online Dating

Online dating, once considered a strange quirk of our increasingly digital life, is now commonplace for single people. There are countless kinds of online dating apps, each with their own (or overlapping) audiences, quirks, themes, and nuances.

Many apps link to various social accounts for identification purposes (and to ensure the account holder is the same person behind the profile and photos), but some of these features open a side door to stalkers. Here’s how you can protect yourself without losing out on potential dates.

Important disclaimer: Online dating apps have vulnerabilities and are also known to give up important personal data as part of their business model and data monetization policies. For this article, we’ll only cover what actions you can take to reduce your risk of getting stalked.

Be aware of what your apps link to

Many common dating apps allow you to directly link third-parties to build up your profile. The most common one is Instagram. Until relatively recently, Tinder exposed Instagram account names on profiles, allowing people to find and harass users on Instagram, even if they never matched on Tinder.

While apps are now a little more privacy-conscious, linking your Instagram clearly gives a potential stalker more info and details. Think about the information available in your Instagram posts—the places you go, where you work, people you know. This is information that poses a risk in the wrong hands.

Use unique images on your dating profiles

The easy way to build your dating profile is to fill it with the best images you already have handy or those available on your social accounts. But reusing images in your dating profile puts you at risk, allowing anyone to do a reverse image search.

A reverse image search starts with an existing image. The search results provide a list of all the websites that have that photo (or similar photos). Clever stalkers can use reverse image search to find your other social media profiles (or even worse, find out where you work or live).

Also, like we mentioned before, the images reveal personal details that can pose a risk if it gets in the hands of a dangerous person.

Use adjacent locations and expand your range

Dating apps ask for your location in order to provide matches that are near you. After all, you may not want to match with someone in LA if you’re based in Chicago. However, if it won’t affect your experience too much, consider concealing your location, or use an adjacent location and expand your geographic range. That way, potential matches don’t know precisely what neighborhood, city, or town you actually live in and you’ll still be able to find people near you.

Limit what personal details you share online

Depending on the dating app or service you use, you may be asked to share personal details, such as your job, where you grew up, or your current job title. While these details may help a potential match assess your compatibility, if you’re concerned about getting stalked by an unsavory individual, you may not want to share the information, or you may want to be a little vague in how you provide this information. For instance, say what industry you’re in rather than the name of your company, or disclose your region rather than your neighborhood. 

Don’t be an open book

You signed up for online dating, not harassment or stalking, but to a large degree it’s up to you to make sure you get the former and avoid the latter. You can build an appealing profile that isn’t revealing, at least in terms of personal information. 

Review your profile from that point of view, looking for things that divulge more than you intended. Ask a friend to look at your profile and see if they could use it to figure out where you live, work, your last name, or anything else that wasn’t supposed to be known.

It’s important to understand that even these precautions don’t guarantee someone who really tries can’t use the clues in your profile to learn more than you wanted them to know. If that freaks you out, you may need to rethink the online dating world. For most people however, a little effort and prudence will keep the process safe.

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