The data behind dating: Can data ever really replace chemistry?

There are an estimated 5,000 dating services in Europe and a whopping 91 million people around the world using dating apps. There is no doubt that the modern world and social norms have shifted, such that online and in-app algorithms are now an acceptable – and often encouraged – way to meet a future partner. It is user data that drives the success of these matches, helping to find that ideal partner, and this data has driven a genuine shift in modern dating habits. How can these dating sites ensure that they are managing and using this data in the best ways possible, as well as ensuring that it’s properly protected? Finally, what does the valuable currency of personal data mean for social norms now and in future?

[easy-tweet tweet=”What does the valuable currency of personal #data mean for social norms now and in future?”]

Each online and app-based dating service attempts to differentiate itself from the competition to tap into one of the many lucrative markets available in this space. Whether they are targeting the young, the old, the professional elite or a specific religion, there is one thing every service has in common. They all use a series of algorithms to analyse each user’s data, to make the best possible matches, based on demographics and shared interests.

Dating site OKCupid is particularly well-renowned for its dating-based data insights and has drawn some interesting trends based on its twelve years of existence. Apparently, for example, iPhone users have more sex than Android users. All users tend to lie about their height, with the average person two inches shorter than they claimed. Heterosexual and homosexual people have the same average number of sexual partners – six by the age of 30.

One question that these platforms raise is over security – we’ve all heard horror stories of fake profiles and scammers. However, it’s not just personal welfare that should be considered, but also data security. How do these dating websites store and manage user data? The good news is that there are legal bodies in place that regulate how companies handle users’ data. Companies collecting and processing data must implement technical and organisational measures to ensure a level of security that is “appropriate to the risks represented by the processing taking place and the nature of the data in question”, according to EU regulation.

These regulations will soon be made more stringent with changes to EU Data Protection regulation.

Although the finer details of the regulation are yet to be ratified, one of the areas specified is that individuals can request their data to be deleted under the “Right to be Forgotten” clause. Any data centre manager or IT worker will know that eliminating all traces of data is a large and potentially difficult task. This became mainstream when Ashley Madison data was leaked, causing thousands of individuals to delete their accounts.

How do these dating websites store and manage user data? The good news is that there are legal bodies in place that regulate how companies handle users’ data

For dating sites, it’s going to be vital to ensure that they are compliant and looking after user data correctly, otherwise they will face a hefty fine of four per cent of their revenue. These penalties would be nonsensical and something companies should avoid at all cost. For dating apps and websites – just like any other business – this means having an effective data privacy programme and data management practice in place.

Whether they store user data on premise or with an external private or public cloud provider, they should assess and reassure customers that data is collected, processed, accessed, shared, stored, transferred and secured in accordance with all laws and regulations, keeping them safe and ultimately allowing them to eradicate their data, should they be ready to end their online dating days. NetApp’s own clustered Data ONTAP storage operating system is one such example, and can be used across cloud and on-premises infrastructure to create a Data Fabric that acts as a single system, meaning that data is more easily managed and controlled.

There is definitely some truth that these dating sites reduce the number of frogs you have to kiss before you meet Mr or Mrs Right, but do they really do more than this? Can they truly help you find The One? For all the people that tell you that online and app-based dating is a waste of time, there are plenty more that will tell you they are now happily settled or married as a result. eHarmony, for example, is now responsible for more than two million marriages –  and with lasting effect. The divorce rate is less than four per cent, which is much lower than the average of 44 per cent in Europe and 53 per cent in the US.

[easy-tweet tweet=”For dating sites, it is vital to ensure they are compliant and looking after user #data correctly” hashtags=”Security”]

Thanks to a sophisticated mixture of psychological profiling, data, algorithms and marketing, the online dating industry is worth in excess of €1.5 billion. As long as all of the data it produces can be properly managed and secured, there’s no reason why the dating industry can’t continue to be as successful as its happily-ever-after matches, complementing chemistry, rather than negating it.

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