The Commissioner's media release states that
The ICO has written to four of the biggest UK online dating companies, after questions were raised about how some dating websites are handling personal data. The letters follow a recent survey by the ICO of major UK dating websites, which identified areas where the Data Protection Act was not being followed.
The ICO has now written to the four biggest UK-based providers of online dating services, highlighting the main areas of concern that the survey found. The companies are asked to respond with how they are meeting those concerns.
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
- Those terms and conditions making reference to the dating company having ‘perpetual’ or ‘irrevocable’ licence to use members’ data
- Websites claiming to take no responsibility for the loss of or damage to personal information
- Users being expected to provide personal details before the terms and conditions are provided
The letters have been sent to eHarmony, match.com, Cupid, and Global Personals, as well as the industry trade body, the Association of British Introduction Agencies.
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.
Simon Entwisle, ICO’s Director of Operations, 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.There's no reason to believe that poor practice is restricted to the UK.