Should you trust a dating website vaccination status?

A number of popular dating apps have decided to cooperate with the British government by providing their users with the capacity to brandish their COVID-19 vaccination status on their profiles. 

Dating platforms and the government are touting the vaccination status as a way for people to prove they are date-worthy compel singles into getting a jab, but is this a reasonable objective? Or does it harbor risks for consumers?

 

Dating services including Tinder, Hinge, and Bumble are working with the government to provide singles with a vaccine status report. Ministers believe it will encourage dating website users to get a vaccine. This follows research from OKCupid which revealed that users who are vaccinated (or plan to get vaccinated) get 14% more matches.

According to representatives at several leading dating companies, a majority of users are already communicating information about their vaccination status on their dating profiles. With this in mind, dating platforms agree that a public vaccination status is a worthwhile step towards ensuring people can date safely.

Mobile phone with mobile dating written on the laptop

No one can deny a person's right to talk about their vaccination status privately if they so wish. That said, one can't help wondering whether a vaccination status automatically provides too much health-related information to dating platforms by proxy. Whether this is necessary is questionable – particularly if you are a privacy advocate.  

Creating a vaccination status will almost certainly create added stigma, too. As a result, individuals may feel they have no choice but to provide vaccine information – not only to fellow users – but to dating platforms themselves.

That private information holds immense value, particularly considered in the greater context of the ongoing pandemic and topics like the right of access to travel or eligibility for venue attendance linked to vaccines not just in the UK, but also abroad.

This raises concerns over the potential for mission creep towards vaccination passports – a proposed document that has received widespread criticism from privacy advocates due to the data security and privacy concerns involved.

needle and a compass on top of a passport

Driving a wedge?

It seems wrong for dating app users to feel coerced into sharing medical information with a private company. The fact that this is being endorsed and encouraged by the government is concerning, particularly when government tactics appear to heighten ongoing concerns surrounding the creation of a vaccinated elite.

Is it right for those who haven't yet been vaccinated to be singled out and shunned? Arguably not.

Yet dating websites in the US have already started rolling out features endorsed by the White House that give users the ability to search by vaccination status. This permits singles to completely avoid fellow users who have not yet been vaccinated.

While it is understandable that governments want to encourage people to be vaccinated, one can't help wondering whether this should be done in a way that socially blacklists those who have not yet been offered – or have not yet been fortunate enough to receive – access to the jab. 

After all, young people in the UK are only now being offered their first vaccine, and they will still need to wait for a second dose. Not to mention questions surround which brand of jab you have received – and the vaccination elitism that appears to surround certain brands over others. 

Too easy to lie

Even with these privacy and liberty issues aside, one can't help wondering whether a vaccination status might backfire on users in a more directly threatening manner. After all, dating websites have no real way to check whether somebody has actually been vaccinated. With this in mind, a status that can easily be falsified appears to provide dubious benefits. Won't those who want an in-person date simply tick the box, anyway?

This raises grave serious concerns over the potential for people to hook up because of the government endorsed scheme.

Arguably, dating app users are more likely to tell the truth about their vaccination status in direct conversation than they are in their status. Consider, for example, that there are numerous Reddit threads dedicated to the act of lying about age on dating profiles.

This is revealing of people's willingness to lie on a profile to get dates. And it seems fair to hypothesize that there exists a level of dissociation when filling in a profile that disappears when talking to someone directly in conversation. After all, a lie told in an online message or in-person is far more morally reprehensible than the fib on a profile.

As a result, providing people with an easy way to lie on their profile appears to increase the chance that users will be lied to; invalidating the entire reason for a vaccination status in the first place – because users would be wise not to trust it.

Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 5 years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, The Times, The Washington Post, The Register, CNET & many more. 

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