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The months of October through February are what some media outlets are calling “cuffing season,” a period when people reportedly experience greater interest in romantic relationships. In 2020—likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic—dating apps have reported even higher online engagement than in previous years. Whether driven by the colder weather, social distancing, or holiday spirit, there is no doubt that a significant part of this year’s “cuffing season” will take place on smartphone apps—and U.S. privacy legislation must be ready to keep up.
A Tinder-box situation: the privacy risks of online dating
Even before the pandemic, the percentage of U.S. adults who meet people online has significantly increased in recent years—and much of this growth can be attributed to the rise of smartphone dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, OKCupid, Hinge, and Bumble. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 30% of American adults had tried online dating in 2019—including 52% of those who had never been married—compared to just 13% in 2013. A 2017 Stanford research study even found that 39% of American heterosexual couples had met online—a more commonly-cited manner than traditional alternatives such as introduction by a mutual acquaintance.
After the outbreak of COVID-19 and the …
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