Looking up a love interest online and “stalking” them on social media are common activities among those who use online dating platforms, new research suggests.
Ahead of Valentine’s Day, cybersecurity firm McAfee has published research into the online dating habits of Britons, which also highlights some of the risks of oversharing online.
According to the report, 18% of people who use a dating app have had their account hacked, with 16-25 year olds nearly twice as likely to fall victim to such an attack.
Of those who have been hacked, around two in five said they were subject to emotional blackmail as a result, while 27% said they were extorted for money and 23% said they had their identity stolen.
The research found that public confidence in online dating platforms was extremely low, with 86% saying they did not feel secure dating online and 60% said they were aware information and images they share on such platforms could be used against them.
Fake dating profiles were also cited as an area of concern, with 30% of men surveyed saying they had encountered a fake dating profile online.
And when it comes to looking up romantic interests online, 92% said they had done so with 58% opting to go searching for a Facebook profile and 29% admitting they had done a Google search to find out more about someone.
Raj Samani, chief scientist of McAfee, said people should think more carefully about the information they share online, particularly on dating platforms.
“Every day, people leave streams of information about themselves online without considering the risks that their digital footprint can bring,” he said.
“Our research shows just how easy it is for someone to find personal, sensitive information about someone else online, some of which could be used to the person’s detriment.
“If this information gets into the wrong hands, it can be used to paint a detailed picture of someone and offer direct access into their lives.
“This data gives a glimpse at the scary repercussions of sharing too much information online can have, if it ends up in the wrong hands, and the consequences can be even worse if it ends up in the hands of online criminals.
“Restricting who’s able to view personal information, such as your date of birth, or photos of yourself or your home, will help ensure that only people you know and trust are able to access details which can put your identity at risk and be used by online criminals to conduct fraudulent activity.”
The cybersecurity firm has published tips on better protecting personal information on social media – alongside its research – which include avoiding sharing sensitive information such as your date of birth, address, job and names of family members.
It also encourages people to only accept friend requests from people they know in real life and to switch off features such as geo-tagging which share a user’s location when they post.