Privacy Tip #189 – Online Dating
As someone who has been married a long time (longer than the Internet has existed), I never experienced the online dating scene. Everyone has their own opinion on the topic, and without getting into the merits of online dating, there is risk for children, which is the subject of this privacy tip.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a warning this week called Parental Advisory: Dating Apps. The advisory warns parents that there are dating apps online that “allow adults to find and communicate with children.” According to the advisory, dating apps FastMeet, Meet24, and Meet4U allow children to create public dating profiles without parental consent. The apps collect users’, including children’s, real-time location data, which allows adults, including sexual predators, to search users by age and location to identify children in their vicinity.
The FTC sent a warning letter to the Ukraine-based maker of the apps alleging that it is violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the FTC Act. The violation of COPPA includes the fact that the apps are collecting children’s personal information without parental consent, which is required by COPPA. The letter stated that “the ability to identify and communicate with children—even those over age 13 poses a significant risk to children’s health and safety.”
Following the issuance of the letter, Apple and Google Play removed the three apps from their stores and the FTC suggests that they be deleted. The FTC suggests that parents find out if their children have downloaded any of these apps, and if so, remove them from their devices. It also reminds parents that they can set those devices to require parental approval before purchasing new apps. Helicoptering is one thing, but these days, being aware of these alerts and acting on them is quite another.