The online dating industry generates billions of dollars per year in revenues, and there are thousands of different companies running online dating websites and mobile apps. Because of the massive business opportunity, companies are continually testing new business models and technologies to facilitate online dating.
There are also significant legal risks for businesses running online dating websites and apps. The large amount of personal information that consumers upload to online dating services creates a legal minefield for businesses. For example, competition creates incentives for profile sharing among different dating services in order to quickly amass large groups of user profiles; however, inadequate disclosure of information-sharing practices can result in significant liability under state privacy laws.
The increase of mobile dating apps and services that use the geographic location of users also creates privacy issues if there are inadequate disclosures of information-gathering practices. The Federal Trade Commission and the California Attorney General have each released guidelines on how mobile apps should disclose information-gathering practices, with a particular focus on geo-targeting data, and compliance with these recommendations is highly advised.
Many online dating websites and apps contain fake profiles and bots posing as real people, which give rise to a variety of legal problems. Fake profiles in some circumstances may be misleading and may violate state or federal laws. Moreover, fake profiles promoting third party services often hurt the credibility of a dating site and stress the technical infrastructure of the site. Regardless of an online dating service's position on fake profiles and bots, a clear legal strategy coupled with well-drafted website agreements and disclosures can reduce legal and business risks significantly.
Affiliate marketing is a popular marketing strategy for many online dating services and apps. However, affiliates can create a multitude of legal problems for a dating site, from unlawful email and SMS spam to a variety of unlawful techniques of generating web traffic. Clear policies and well-drafted affiliate agreements not only reduce future legal costs but also lead to more profitable affiliate marketing programs.
Kronenberger Rosenfeld's experience in representing a variety of online dating websites, apps, and affiliate marketers, including in a wide variety of niche online dating services, and the firm's significant experience in web and mobile privacy matters, are of great benefit to our clients.