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Feb
14
2011

Happy Valentine’s Day!

By Fran Maier
President
TRUSTe

Way back in the early days of the Internet, I was the General Manager of the online dating site Match.com. Who knew that sixteen years later, Match.com and online dating, would become a rite of passage for millions of singles, a billion dollar plus industry, and, now moving to the smart phone!

Even back in 1995 I knew that brand trust and privacy were critical to the success of the emerging online dating business. In fact, Match.com was one of the first sites to get the TRUSTe seal.

I asked my friend, Robin Wolaner, Managing Director of Skout, a smartphone online dating service, to help me with some privacy tips just in time for Valentine’s Day:

1. Anonymize Your User Name and Pick Carefully: If you want to hide your real identity (and we recommend that you do) don’t use parts of your real name or other identifying information. It’s better to make it the name something about you, not your identity. You would be so surprised at dumb user names that include people’s initials, dates of birth, street names.

2. Pick Your Photo Carefully: The photo you pick could be also found social networks like Facebook or on Flikr and other similar sites. Your photo could also be on sites tied to your location. Its becoming much easier to identify someone online through facial matching software. Find a unique photo and be sure you understand you have some choices on many online dating sites regarding who gets to see your photo. Use your choices! Robin added “I am stunned by the idiots who include pictures of themselves with their kids. If they want to give up their own privacy, fine, but their kids?”

3. Reveal Just Enough: Don’t feel that you have to provide your entire biography on your profile or answer every single question. Avoid including information – a bit here and there – that together could identify you. Write a “profile” that reveals the real you, not the data about you. Robin shared, “A friend who’s new to this world posted her profile with Atherton listed as her town. Someone pointed out that only the wealthy live in Atherton; Redwood City is less revelatory and still gives the general location.”

4. Get Together- Safely: Many online relationships migrate to email, texting, or eventually a date. Great! In each of these encounters you are potentially revealing personal information. Use an email address that does not reveal your place of work or is not widely distributed. Don’t text unless you anonymize your mobile phone number! And most importantly, ONLY meet in public! Robin adds, “Meeting at one of the beaches everyone claims to like walking on is public, but still dangerous. Leave your car where he (or she) can’t get your license plate number.”

5. Know The Rules and Look for Signs of Trust: Understand how the dating site protects your information – be sure to review the privacy policy (is their a trustmark?) as well as security. Understanding how the service works will help you use it more effectively.

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