For the study, Kaspersky analysed nine popular and highly rated dating apps with global user bases: Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, Mamba, Pure, Feeld, Her, Happn, and Badoo.
They found that most dating apps continue to allow users to register their account with one of their social networking sites (Instagram, Facebook, Spotify, etc), which automatically populates their profiles with information such as photos, place of work or university.
All these data makes it easy to find dating app users' social media accounts, and depending on their privacy settings on those accounts, a host of other personal information.
Further, many apps like Happn, Her, Bumble, and Tinder also have made it obligatory for users to share their location.
Some apps, like Mamba, share the distance of users to the nearest meter. Happn has an additional functionality that lets users see how many times and in what locations their matches have crossed paths with them.
On the other hand, Mamba is the only application that lets users blur their photos for free, while Pure is the only one that prohibits users from taking screenshots of chats.
Access to data such as users' photo, location, place of work, name, contact information, etc, leaves them vulnerable to blackmailing, cyberstalking or even physical stalking, as well as doxing (where previously private information is made public in order to shame or harm the victim).
However, many apps have enhanced users' security in its paid versions. For example, in the paid versions of Tinder and Bumble, one can manually choose the location. Happn's paid version offers users an "incognito mode", whereby users can hide their profile from those they havena¿t swiped right on and strangers.
"Thankfully, what we've seen over the past few years is that dating apps are moving in the right direction, letting users connect more safely. They're working to keep the data secure, and, in the paid versions of many of the apps, users can do things like manually specify their location or blur their photos," said Tatyana Shishkova, security expert at Kaspersky, in a statement.
"Hopefully, in the future, these options will be available in all apps for free," Shishkova noted.
To stay safe when using dating apps, Kaspersky experts recommend not to share too much personal information (last name, employer, photos with friends, political views, etc); not to tie other social media accounts; if possible, select location manually; and use two-factor authentication.
Further, if one is no longer using the app, they should delete or hide their profiles; use the built-in messenger in dating apps to keep the private information secured.