ICO threatens action on dating sites

getimageThe Information Commissioner’s Office is demanding answers from some of the UK’s top online dating firms – such as BeNaughty and UniformDating – amid claims they are riding roughshod over users’ personal data.
The move follows a recent ICO probe of the £2.5bn UK dating site industry, and last week’s BBC Panorama investigation, which exposed widescale violations of the Data Protection Act.
The ICO has now written to the four biggest UK-based providers of online dating services, eHarmony, Match.com, Cupid (which owns UniformDating and WildBuddies) and Global Personals (which runs FlirtNaughty), as well as the industry trade body, the Association of British Introduction Agencies. It has highlighted the main areas of concern that the survey found, and is demanding a response to how they are meeting those issues.
The areas of concern highlighted include: poor visibility of the terms and conditions that give the website consent to use personal information in certain ways; T&Cs making reference to the dating company having ‘perpetual’ or ‘irrevocable’ licence to use members’ data; sites claiming to take no responsibility for the loss of or damage to personal information; and users being expected to provide personal details before the T&Cs are provided.
The work by the ICO’s enforcement team comes as BBC’s Panorama programme reports on the scale of apparent unscrupulous practices being employed by some dating websites.
The programme claimed that many are using stolen data and photographs to set up fake profiles and lure in customers, and found one even used pictures of Michelle Pfeiffer, Brad Pitt, Michael Caine and Rick Stein. However, it has since emerged that the BBC could have broken data laws by obtaining the profiles in the first place.
ICO director of operations Simon Entwisle said: “The evidence we’re being presented with by the media suggests quite concerning business practices by some dating websites, and there are particular questions around how people’s information is being used that need to be answered.
“It’s concerning to see that there appear to be sites which, as a matter of course, are falling far short of the legal standards for ensuring information is accurate and up to date.
“While media reports are painting a disturbing picture, the number of complaints we’re getting from the public is not very high. That could be because this is only an issue with a small minority of websites, or it could be because people are reluctant to come forward. The work we’re doing now will help us to better understand the scale of the issue.
“As part of that work, we’d urge anyone who believes a dating website has misused their data to get in touch with us.”

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2 Comments on "ICO threatens action on dating sites"

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  2. RT @DM_editor: Dating sites under the cosh for flouting #dataprotection laws http://t.co/xqBECEjfRO #directmarketing #datamarketing #digita…

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