The OKCupid Case

OKCupid, the online dating site with over 30 million users, get’s pretty personal. It’s sort of the point. You want a great match with someone out there in the internet wild. To get that match, you need to take a deep dive into who you are. You do this under the assumption that the information is a closed loop – that all those sentences you are writing and boxes you are clicking are a part of OKCupid, and nowhere else. What if that weren’t the case though?

Lets first take a look at some of the information you give to this online giant sourced from 

The basic information:

First, you volunteer your sexual orientation (broken down into 12 different types of orientation), then your relationship status, your height, and your body type.

Then you provide your ethnicity, your languages, education, and religion. All of this seems innocuous except the religion portion. I think a year ago this section would be harmless, but right now I wonder if it’s prudent with the possibility of a Muslim registry on the rise.

Finally, you round out your basic information with smoking, drinking and drug habit information, how many kids you have, your pets, your astrological sign, and finally your diet.

Even if you stop right there, that’s a lot of information to put out there. But I suppose you may think to yourself, “it’s just on the site, they need details to match me up!” Let’s go a little further.

Personality Questions

Things get a little more interesting here. You get to write paragraphs about what you are doing with your life, what you are good at, what people notice about you, the six things I could never do without, what you think about most, and what you like to do on a Friday night.

Sure, these are perfect for a dating site. So what’s the problem?

“a group of Danish researchers who released a data set on nearly 70,000 users of the popular dating website.”

These Danish jerks, no doubt eating pickled fish while they did it, released barely obscured information on 70,000 ok Cupid users. 70,000! that means all of you out there pouring out your heart and soul about what makes you a special snowflake – that data is now being help by countless marketing companies around the world. It’s in countless portfolios sitting on hidden servers by companies you have never heard of.

The Danish offenders claimed you had no reasonable expectation of privacy if you are posting this information on a dating site. Is that how you feel about it? In my mind, sitting in a large public AA meeting and talking about your addiction carries with it the expectation that what you share will stay in the room. When you post on OkCupid you are making yourself vulnerable in order to attract someone with the expectation you are in a closed-loop system – what you put here will not automatically end up on the web.

Perhaps this is naive, but it sort of feels like common sense to me. Should my digital writing, no matter where I put it, be open to public domain?