The Scoop: Dating apps ask users for a lot of private information, from phone numbers and credit card numbers to location and sexual preferences. LGBTQ+ individuals living in countries where homosexuality is criminalized or not accepted often aren’t safe using apps that collect so much private information. u2nite is a dating app that’s tackling this issue. u2nite offers free, private, and secure dating and social networking features for LGBTQ+ individuals across the globe. Users never have to give up their personal information, and the app never collects, stores, or sells user data.
According to the Human Dignity Trust, a foundation fighting to abolish the criminalization of LGBTQ+ identities, 65 jurisdictions across the world consider private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity a criminal offense. Among those, 12 jurisdictions impose or consider the death penalty in these cases.
Those of us who live in places where LGBTQ+ people, culture, and relationships are visible and accepted have access to dating sites and apps where users can embrace their full identities without fear of harassment or retaliation. However, this is not the case globally, and there is a cohort of LGBTQ+ individuals who have a different set of needs from their dating apps.
Among the most pressing of these needs are privacy and data protection. A majority of dating apps collect an enormous amount of private information. LGBTQ+ people who have privacy concerns often can’t use these apps and are left with few options not only for dating, but also to build friendships and community.
u2nite is an LGBTQ+ dating app giving queer people everywhere a secure avenue to make connections. u2nite protects its users by implementing state-of-the-art security tech that ensures user data and information is never collected, sold, or tracked. Ivar M. M. Våge is the CEO of u2nite, and he told us about the app and how it protects users.
“In the Western world, most people are tolerant,” Ivar said, “but that’s not the case everywhere. It’s even getting worse in some countries. In many countries worldwide, it’s forbidden to be part of the LGBTQ+ community, so people who live in these countries need to be really secure when meeting people online.”
Meeting The Needs of Global LGBTQ+ Daters
The foundation mission of u2nite was to provide the global LGBTQ+ community with a secure social and dating app. To achieve this, the team built technology that allowed users to connect through a robust platform while never collecting, storing, selling, or tracking user data. This was necessary to ensure the safety of users everywhere.
“We wanted to address a huge problem in the dating industry worldwide,” Ivar said. “Especially in the United States, hacking and data selling from Grindr and other dating apps have happened many times. Many of these apps are based on old technology, and they ask for a lot of private information that’s then left vulnerable.”
Think about all the information you put into a dating app. Depending on the kind of app you’re using, this information could include your location, birthday, full name, and identifying photos of yourself. It could also include information about your sexual identity, orientation, and preferences.
While many users enter this information without a second thought, other users have to think very carefully about how their personal information will be handled. While hacking attacks and security breaches are one concern, data selling is a greater concern, as the practice has become prolific across a variety of apps and platforms.
“Our team sat down to brainstorm, and we went through all the normal features of a dating app and had to figure out how to make them safe and secure,” Ivar said. “We decided we couldn’t do any GPS tracking, which was a challenge because GPS tracking is happening all the time on our phones.”
LGBTQ+ people worried about data privacy and security on dating apps will find solace in u2nite’s mission of protecting users just like them. “If you want to meet someone online, you have to be careful in many countries,” Ivar said. “Our mission is human– provide a safe and secure place to be yourself.”
A Dating Site That Keeps User Info Private
u2nite’s security approach is centered around decentralization. This means u2nite does not operate a central database containing members’ personal information. The dating app uses blockchain-related technology and smart safety features that the company hopes will redefine what safety means for all social networking apps.
One of u2nite’s main privacy features is called Cell Location. The Cell Location feature assigns “cells” instead of exact locations to users. A cell is a broad area that does not reveal the precise location of a user, and users can choose which cell they want to be identified in. Cell Location prevents u2nite from collecting any kind of GPS data.
Profile data, chat conversations, and all other personal information are stored exclusively on a user’s phone. No private content — except for images — is recorded on u2nite servers at any time. But u2nite still offers an unparalleled level of privacy, even for images.
User images are distributed by high-speed content delivery networks. While they are stored on the internet as far as they have to be, u2nite anonymizes image links to make them almost impossible to locate without the app, and the app never associates profile data with images.
u2nite encrypts data between users using a double-ratchet algorithm. This end-to-end encryption means that no one other than the parties involved can decrypt in-chat messages. This tech even protects against eavesdropping as each conversation is encrypted using its own set of crypto keys, and eavesdroppers will be unable to tell who is talking to whom.
Most dating and social networking apps require users to provide their phone number or email address to create profiles. u2nite never asks for a phone number or email address, and users can publish their chat addresses only as long as they want to stay visible. Privacy and security are built into every feature of u2nite.
Express Yourself Safely With u2nite
Ivar urged LGBTQ+ online daters to stay safe while online dating. “I think it’s extremely important to really think about all the information you’re giving to an app,” he said. “They’re asking you for your email address, and then they’re GPS tracking you, and the list goes on. If you have to pay for something, they have your payment information.”
While many of us may not think about the amount of personal information we give out online, it’s critical to stay savvy with personal information. Scams, including romance and dating app-related scams, are not only happening more often but are becoming smarter. Even further, the apps we trust with our data are often not so trustworthy and may be sharing or selling private data with our agencies.
LGBTQ+ individuals who live in areas where they cannot openly express themselves cannot run the risk of their private information being widely accessible. “Sometimes, dating apps even ask for very sensitive, personal health data,” Ivar said. “If you’re putting that in most dating apps– that’s pretty much public information.”
Ivar urged LGBTQ+ daters everywhere to put safety first when it comes to online dating. “This is what I want to say to anybody in any country and region: do not give out your personal information, and be conscious and careful when using apps that ask for it. Someone will misuse your data. It’s almost a guarantee.”
“When you open up u2nite, you don’t have to give any personal information,” Ivar said. “No email address, no phone number.” u2nite is about making connections and fostering LGBTQ+ identities and communities everywhere, and ensuring individuals can be safe while doing so.