The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

ICO writes to online dating companies

News release: 29 July 2013

“There are questions around how people’s information is being used that need to be answered”


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.

“As part of that work, we’d urge anyone who believes a dating website has misused their data to get in touch with us.”

If you are unhappy about the way your personal information has been handled by a dating company, you can make a complaint to the ICO. 

 

Notes to Editors

1. The Information Commissioner’s Office upholds information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

2. The ICO has specific responsibilities set out in the Data Protection Act 1998, the Freedom of Information Act 2000, Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003.

3. The ICO is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, and produces a monthly e-newsletter.

4. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with eight principles of the Data Protection Act, which make sure that personal information is:

  • Fairly and lawfully processed
  • Processed for limited purposes
  • Adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • Accurate and up to date
  • Not kept for longer than is necessary
  • Processed in line with your rights
  • Secure 
  • Not transferred to other countries without adequate protection

5. If you need more information, please contact the ICO press office on 0303 123 9070.