People 'n' Issues

The data behind dating

February 14th, 2017
With Valentine’s Day upon us and thousands of South Africans in the pursuit of love within the online realm. SEKETE PATRICK MAPHOPHA, NetApp Africa CTO and Technology Evangelist, asks a vital question - how secure is your personal data?
Best-Online-Dating-Sites

There are an estimated 1 000 dating sites currently operating in South Africa – some of them stating membership numbers of up to several million.

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?

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.

Safety comes first when searching for your date with destiny

Data security should also be considered by dating sites. 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.

These regulations will soon be made more stringent with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development publishing a revised 2017 draft of the Cyber Security Bill, which will only be introduced to Parliament in the next few weeks. The Bill aims to give SA a co-ordinated approach to cyber security, and puts in place measures to effectively deal with cyber-crime and address aspects relating to cyber security. The department further describes the Bill as a tool to address the current shortcomings in SA law and facilitate the effective prosecution of cybercrimes.  NetApp has storage security solutions which help prevent unauthorized modification or disclosure of data stored which would be ideal in this scenario.

The chemistry of compliance

For dating sites, it’s going to be vital to ensure that they are compliant and looking after user data correctly. 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. The NetApp 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 Ms 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.

Thanks to a sophisticated mixture of psychological profiling, data, algorithms and marketing, the online dating industry in South Africa is worth about R90-million. 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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