Last year, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) opened an investigation into dating industry giant, and white label dating provider, Venntro Media Group (though didn’t name them at the time). The investigation was launched into the company after concerns about their use of data were reported.
In June this year the CMA published their summary of undertakings.
Venntro has over 55 million users worldwide and has over 3,000 websites on their platform, so in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and recent changes in data and privacy laws, you can imagine this was a pretty big deal.
This is an issue is close to our hearts at M14; not only do Venntro provide a similar service to us on the surface, but data protection and user respect is a core value we hold as a company. We’ll be following up on this blog post covering different aspects of data protection, for consumers and partners alike.
The investigation found that people signing up to websites built on Venntro’s platform were unaware that their personal information would be loaded to a central database allowing Venntro to share their profiles with some of their other sites. As an end user, this means after joining one site you would be viewable as a user on many other sites. Due to lack of information given during sign up some users complained they had effectively joined a site with explicit adult content, without realising it.
The CMA’s main concern was that people on a specialist site may have been paying to interact with users who are not subscribed to that site, and do not share their interests.
As a result of the investigation conducted by the CMA, Venntro has agreed to make several legally binding commitments to make data usage clear to users. Though it’s important to not none of this amounts “to an admission that any person has committed any criminal offence or otherwise infringed the law”.
George Lusty, Senior Director for Consumer Protection at the CMA, said: “We took action against Venntro because we were concerned people’s profiles were being placed on sites without their knowledge or permission, and that they were being misled about how likely they were to meet someone with common ground. As a result of our investigation, Venntro has now pledged to be more upfront with its customers in future.”
Venntro must now:
- Make it clear to people before they sign up that their profile will be shared across other Venntro sites. They must also list these sites specifically, as well as guaranteeing not to share profiles to any adult-themed sites without additional active consent.
- Make it easier for users to delete their profiles when their subscription ends.
- Not make misleading claims about the number of members/messages sent on its sites.
These guidelines, which are available publicly on the CMA’s website, are not just published for Venntro’s sake; these can now be taken as instructions for our whole industry.
John Kershaw, founder of M14 Industries, said “with more and more focus being drawn to how companies use people’s data, it’s important that we start from a position of proactive transparency, and move gingerly. The days of collecting as much data as possible and using it however you can to maximize profits is thankfully drawing to a close. Providing real value to real users is always going to be the stronger long term strategy”.
I think we can all agree this is great news for users of the dating platform, as well as other dating sites. The precedent has now been set by the CMA for data usage and transparency in the industry.
M14 Industries doesn’t pool users, and only allows federated databases of shared users between different services where it makes sense for end users. Our unique blend of customisation and easy white labeling allows for greater individual control of data, and ensures adherence to the various app store policies.