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Researchers Intentionally Leak 70,000 OkCupid Profiles For Science

14 May 2016, 10:58 am EDT By Horia Ungureanu Tech Times
Danish researches published data from 70,000 OkCupid profiles on the Open Science Framework. The indiscretion poses questions about the nature of anonymity, and is frowned upon by dating site officials and the university where the three students are enrolled.  ( OkCupid )

A group of Danish researchers took apart data from 70,000 OkCupid profiles, loaded it into data sheets and published it online for the whole world to see (and find a match, perhaps).

Although the theory goes that the dating site is public, the practice of collecting personal information on a massive scale without individual consent is a major breach of privacy, not to mention social science ethics.

The team of scientists counts Emil Kirkegaard, along with two other colleagues. The trio deployed automated software to scrape data from the profiles of a few tens of thousands of people. Once the data mining was completed, they uploaded the results to the Open Science Framework (OSF). The OSF functions as a repository and discussion board for scientists who want to share relevant data with the community.

A slight appearance of anonymity remains, though, as no real names of the OkCupid users are being used. However, the usernames and locations are on full display, as well as the answers to the myriad of questions available inside the app. Some users might be ok with the world knowing their views on political aspects or niche sexuality behavior, but we are willing to bet that most did not sign up for that when they downloaded the dating app.

Kirkegaard has repeatedly tweeted about the paper and underlined that the data was publicly available.

However, scraping it breaks the terms of usage of the dating site, and even legal issues could be at stake.

"This is a clear violation of our terms of service - and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act - and we're exploring legal options," Vox learned from an OkCupid spokesperson.

The American Psychological Association also states that for data to be valid scientifically, users must consent to the research that involves them.

Denmark's Aarhus University, where Kirkegaard is enrolled, made a point out of condemning the action and pointed out that the data was not part of the University's research.

According to Vox, the data was already downloaded 500 times, and there are reports that analyses based on it have already begun.

The optimal use of hookup apps puts some users' minds at work and in January we reported on how to get the most out of your swipes.

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