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Millions of people are using online dating sites to search for love or connection, but users should beware: many online dating sites are taking short cuts in safeguarding the privacy and security of users.

Whether it’s due to counter-intuitive privacy settings or serious security flaws, users of online dating profiles risk their privacy and security every day.

Here are six sobering facts about online dating services and a few suggestions for routing around the privacy pitfalls. Your dating profileincluding your photos—can hang around long after you’ve moved on.

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Look at the privacy policy of a website before you sign up and see what they say about how they treat data of deleted profiles.

Remember that a privacy policy can change at any time; even if a site promises to discard your data upon deletion now, it could revise that policy tomorrow to hang on to data for a few monthsor forever.

If you decide to sign up for a dating site, consider taking a few steps to make it harder for a dating site to easily identify you.

In fact, dating sites have an impetus for maintaining your informationwhat if things don’t work out and you want to reactivate your profile in a few months?

But having your data hanging around on a company’s servers, even if they aren’t actively serving that content to the web at large, raises a host of privacy issues.

The most pressing concern is that information about you may be exposed to future legal requests that might involve a criminal investigation, a divorce case, or even a legal tussle with an insurance company.

Photos in particular can linger long after you’ve deleted them or closed your account due to many large websites hosting user-uploaded photos with Content Delivery Networks.

In short, photos are hosted on an outside company’s servers.

As Joseph Bonneau explained, the main website provides an obfuscated URL for the photo to anyone it deems has permission to view it.

But in Bonneau’s experiment with 16 popular websites, removing the photo from the main website didn't always remove it from the Content Delivery Network; in those cases, anyone who still had the destination URL would be able to view the photo.

This means that Content Delivery Networks can maintain caches of sensitive photos even after users “delete” them, leaving photos vulnerable to being rediscovered or even hacked in the future.

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