Dating Apps & Digital Identity During a Pandemic

In our article “Dating, Drones and Digital Identity,” we explored the need for identity verification within internet dating sites and shared some examples of what the process could look like. Well, a lot has changed since then. 

Last year, a Stanford sociologist, Michael Rosenfeld, published a report which found that many couples are more likely to meet online than through personal connections, creating a $6 billion global industry. And since the implementation of social distancing measures in the U.S., there has been an increase in online dating app usage. According to Fast Company, Bumble has reported an overall 21% message increase, with substantially more increases where COVID-19 has been most prevalent. 

With cities such as San Francisco and New York seeing an increase in messages of 26% and 23% respectively and individuals still interested in meeting face to face, online dating platforms have needed to shift their focus to keep their companies running. For example, Coffee Meets Bagel and Match is pushing video-based features, making it simpler for their users to participate in virtual dates.  

Online dating has always been full of identity fraud. The increasing demand for dating apps has only exacerbated the issues of online dating. According to a study by Psychology Today, half of online dating users have lied about their identity in their profiles. The lack of identity verification when creating an account on the dating app to ensure the digital identity of the user matches their physical identity is also an issue. During the pandemic, catfishing — when a person creates a fake identity online, has increased because lying about an identity is simpler when there is no fear of getting caught. While some dating apps verify the digital identity through other social media platforms such as Facebook, it’s not a bullet-proof system since it’s easy to create a fake Facebook account. These companies must prioritize providing users the best security solution to safeguard the user experience. 

More seriously, Tinder and Grinder were under investigation by the government last year after an investigation showed more than 60 cases of sexual abuse of children were facilitated by online dating. This led to a call from government officials to ask the companies to create an age verification system. 

There are companies creating solutions to provide identity verification to create a safer community for online dating. Yoti, a digital identity app partnered with DateID, to provide users a simple way to verify the people they are meeting online are who they say they are. However, this is not enough. It is important for online dating companies to deliver a security that users demand by implementing methods of identity verification such as two-factor authentication or biometric authentication, if not, their users may lose trust in the application and cause the company to see a decrease in active users and revenue. 

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