Dating websites 'potentially in breach of data protection act', warns ICO

By Danny Palmer
30 Jul 2013 View Comments
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Four of the UK's biggest online dating websites could be in breach of the Data Protection Act over how they handle users' personal details, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has warned.

Cupid, eHarmony, match.com, Global Personals and the industry trade body, the Association of British Introduction Agencies, have all received letters from the ICO voicing concerns following a recent survey it carried out.

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These include poor visibility of terms and conditions about the use of personal information, the dating websites claiming to take no responsibility about the loss of personal data, and the fact that website users are expected to provide personal details before the terms and conditions are provided to them. 

The letters to the dating websites come ahead of the airing of a BBC Panorama documentary about the "unscrupulous practices" being used by some organisations in the dating industry

"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," said Simon Entwisle, ICO's director of operations.

"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."

Entwisle urged members of the public to come forward if they have concerns over how dating websites are using their data.

"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," he said.

"As part of that work, we'd urge anyone who believes a dating website has misused their data to get in touch with us," he continued. 

The ICO has urged anyone with a concern about how their personal data is being used to make a complaint to the organisation.

At the time of publication, the documentary is available to readers in the UK via BBC iPlayer

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