CHOICE says online dating can put you in advertisers’ embrace
In an investigation of popular online dating sites, CHOICE has found that members’ private information and photographs can be used in advertising or online marketing. Users of these sites also risk exploitation by scammers.
The people’s watchdog says the provisions that may compromise privacy are hidden deep within extensive and confusing terms and conditions.
CHOICE wants online dating sites, as part of the sign up process, to prominently display terms and conditions relating to use of details. All sites should allow people to specifically choose whether or not they want their information to be passed on to third parties or used in advertising.
“Once you agree to certain dating website’s terms and conditions, your profile and your photo can be used for advertising and even passed on to third parties,” says CHOICE spokesperson Ingrid Just.
CHOICE‘s investigation included RSVP, eHarmony, Oasis Active and OkCupid, all of which have a combined membership of millions of Australians. While all sites offer free memberships with limited options, some sites charge almost $60 per month for premium memberships.
“People may sign up to these sites looking for love and companionship without realising that they are also giving permission for personal information to be shared with others, or their browsing habits to be tracked,” says Ms Just.
CHOICE says its investigation of online dating sites also highlights the risk of scammers who pose as legitimate site members in order to get personal or financial information from unsuspecting users.
“Despite the fact that sites allow you to report scammers, we know from ACCC and NSW Department of Fair Trading investigations that some people have parted with personal details and significant amounts of money. This can turn the experience of finding love into a nightmare,” says Ms Just.
CHOICE’s tips for reducing the risks of online dating:
- Create a separate email address for online dating.
- Never transfer money or give out your credit card or bank account details to someone you’ve met online.
- Be cautious about how much personal information you share – scammers can use it to create false identities.
- Report suspected scams to your state or territory Fair Trading office.
Read CHOICE’s report on online dating sites at www.choice.com.au/onlinedating.