University of Oulu

Unsafe interactions in dating apps

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Author: Ali, Muhammad1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, Department of Information Processing Science, Information Processing Science
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.3 MB)
Pages: 56
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : M. Ali, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-04-14
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Hartikainen, Heidi
Reviewer: Hartikainen, Heidi
Ventä-Olkkonen, Leena


Online dating is a way for people to meet and connect with potential romantic partners over the internet. It is usually done through a dating website or a dating app, which allows users to create a profile, browse and view other users’ profiles, and communicate with potential matches. Online dating can be a convenient and effective way to find a partner, especially for people who are busy or have difficulty meeting potential partners through traditional means. However, as every technology comes with its pros and cons, the same is with online dating. Risks associated with online dating include, for example, scamming, catfishing, and other forms of online fraud.

The thesis focuses on exploring unsafe interactions among dating app users. The research questions considered for this thesis are: 1) What kind of unsafe interactions users report facing in dating apps? 2) How have the reported unsafe interactions been solved? To see what kind of unsafe interactions users have had through dating apps, the data has been collected through a discourses survey. The study employs “Discourses survey" strategy to analyze complex social actions, which identifies public discourse on a specific subject without researcher bias. The data was collected using predefined keywords related to unsafe interactions in dating apps in the following news databases: CNN, BBC, CNBC, DailyMail, FoxNews, and TheGuardian. The searches in the above databases resulted in 391 relevant research articles. The articles were coded into the following categories of unsafe online interactions using a predefined codebook: Information Breaches, Online harassment, Sexual solicitations, Exposure to explicit content, and different Crimes. Each category further included several subcodes.

Most of the unsafe interactions reported in the news databases and included in the dataset were related to different crimes (81%), such as different scams, sexual assaults, murder, or fraud. The least were related to exposure to explicit material (0%). Overall, 58% of the incidents in the dataset were resolved most often by the law enforcement agencies such as courts and police, while 42% remained unresolved. For crimes, the resolved rate was slightly higher than the average at 61%, while 39% remained unresolved. Although dating apps offer safety features and detailed guidelines to ensure users’ safety, from the data, it is clear dating apps could take more steps to eradicate unsafe user interactions and help support users in case such interactions happen. Regarding this, I offer some recommendations concerning how to promote a safe environment for online dating.

Thus, the main contribution of my thesis is to identify what kind of unsafe interactions are reported on the English-speaking open internet concerning dating apps and identify if these interactions usually get solved. I will also offer a discussion on whether the currently implemented safety features answer these concerns.

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Copyright information: © Muhammad Ali, 2023. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.