We discussed privacy with Madeleine Mason MBPsS, director of dating expert company PassionSmiths, organiser of the UK Dating Fair and Founder of the Dating Industry Professionals Network (DIPN).
- As a dating coach, I assume you want to get the best results based on people’s true characteristics – whilst observing your client’s privacy interests. How do you balance disclosure and privacy?
A dating coach is a broad unregulated title that donates a person who helps single people find a romantic partner, whether for superficial purposes, such as flings and one-night stands, typical of ‘pick up artists’ (PUA), or for long-term relationships and marriage. Dating coaches can range from self-declared experts, people who have taken an online course or weekend workshop, PUA’s to people who have substantial degrees, for example a trained therapist or psychologist. I am one of the latter, I am a trained CBT therapist, with 3 degrees in psychology and undertaking a doctorate in counselling psychology. I am a member of the British Psychological Society, soon to be member of the BACP. These are government recognised bodies regulated by the Health Profession Council. These bodies require their members to adhere to strict ethical guidelines in compliance, amongst other things, with the Data Protection Act 1998.
Because the dating industry is unregulated (at the time of writing), many untrained people are offering advice and help to singles. There are therefore many services that do not consider ethical standards under which data protection features. This is potentially dangerous, not only for the individual client but for the dating industry as a whole. As a result I have founded the DIPN, the Dating Industry Professionals Network, where we ensure our members have access to supervision, professional development and support on how to conduct business to ethical standards. It is a source for the general public to feel safe that any company they deal with from the DIPN are reliable and professional.
- What types of information that you become aware of during your work do you find to be most sensitive?
As a dating coach, and as with any ‘talking profession’, I collect basic biodata: name, age, gender, contact details, payment details etc. These must be kept and stored securely. If anyone within the talking professions make use of websites and other e-platforms, data must be encrypted and safeguarded. In sessions, many coaches will take notes, similarly these notes must be kept and stored securely or at the very least have all identifying features removed.
We must never discuss our clients details or presenting issues outside of the sessions we have with them. The only exception is when we have supervision, and even then we must ensure to anonymise the information. Supervision is a professional requirement of people who conduct work with others. Many dating coaches do not uphold these requirements and forego professional development as a result.
The only time we would breach confidentiality is if we discover that a client is in danger of themselves or others. For example, if a client disclosed that they have plans to commit suicide or harm someone else. This is an unlikely scenario in dating coaching, but not an impossible one. Nevertheless professionals must have a safeguarding procedure in place. The typical types of information I hear from clients range from anecdotal dating experiences and objective dating activities, to private inner worries and unshared childhood experiences. In short, the most sensitive information I get is related to clients personal and private feelings, which is most likely to surface because they know they can speak confidentially. Even if they disclosed a crime, we do not breach confidentiality, unless it is with the client’s consent. Again this is a very unlikely scenario in dating coaching.
- You are known for your innovative approach of ‘power dating’. In what way does this approach entail better use of your clients’ data?
The good thing about Power Dating is that we do not use client data, other than their marital status (they must be single). I say good, because I feel the less information we need to obtain, the less work there is involved in keeping it safe! For all events however, we do capture email addresses, and from a data protection point of view, the same applies in terms of keeping the details safe and in compliance with the law, and not sharing them with third parties, unless clients have opted-in for this. (In some case we will offer opt-in form if people wish to be contacted about future events, with an explicit note to highlight they can opt-out at any time).