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The information exposed can be particularly devastating to people living in small towns, where they are more easily identified.For example, one person exposed in the hack is a 40-year old welder from a small Illinois town of a few thousand people.

The company said it doesn't yet know the full scope of the breach, but it promised to "work vigilantly," noting that Friend Finder Networks "fully appreciates the seriousness of the issue." "We cannot speculate further about this issue, but rest assured, we pledge to take the appropriate steps needed to protect our customers if they are affected," the company said.Digital technology and smartphones in particular have transformed many aspects of our society, including how people seek out and establish romantic relationships.Included in the exposed personal information are customers' email addresses, usernames, passwords, birthdays and zip codes, in addition to their sexual preferences.No credit card data has yet been uncovered as part of the hack.One-in-five online daters have asked someone else to help them with their profile.

Many online daters enlist their friends in an effort to put their best digital foot forward.

"i am loading these up in the mailer now / i will send you some dough from what it makes / thank you!!

" wrote a hacker who goes by "MAPS." Friend Finder Networks Inc., parent company of Adult Friend Finder and other adult sites and publications including Penthouse, said in a statement that it had just become aware of the breach, and it is working closely with law enforcement and cyberforensics company Mandiant, a subsidiary.

Today, 12% of 55- to 64-year-olds report ever using an online dating site or mobile dating app versus only 6% in 2013.

One factor behind the substantial growth among younger adults is their use of mobile dating apps.

The share of 18- to 24-year-olds who use online dating has roughly tripled from 10% in 2013 to 27% today.