OkCupid is a free dating website that attracts thousands of new users daily to answer questions ranging from “Do you believe in God?” to “Would you sleep with someone on the first date?” The answers are presumably used to match users with potential mates. There's just one problem: They're not secure.
A new report shows that privacy on OkCupid, which was acquired by Match.com last year, is all but nonexistent. The site may archive data even after users close their account or delete information from their profile. Since Match.com took over, the site’s service terms let OkCupid share user data between the more than 50 websites owned by Match.com parent company IAC/InterActive Corp., as well as IAC partners.
Among the other findings in the report by Sarah Downey of privacy-tracking company Abine:
- OkCupid doesn't support HTTPS, a secure browsing protocol that has become standard on most other sites.
- Information shares on the site can be stored indefinitely. “Put bluntly,” Downey wrote, “anything you post on the site may be there forever.”
The one bright spot: OkCupid will consider requests by users to withhold their information from third parties if they send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Assume Everything Is Public
Today's Web is built on the tradeoff between personal information and free services. Nonetheless, users complain about every little privacy grab by Facebook. At the same time, many people don’t consider the intimate perspective online dating sites have on their personal lives. Not only are users sharing information about likes and dislikes, partner preferences and relationship history, but they are often asked more intimate questions about sexually transmitted diseases, kids, drinking habits and drug use.
And consider the vision of the company’s future, as described by co-founder Chris Coyne in an interview with Eli Pariser, author of the Filter Bubble, that was recounted in the book. Coyne, who stayed with the company after the Match.com acquisition, described a scenario where site members will walk around with augmented displays.
“You walk into a bar, and a camera immediately scans the faces in the room and matches them against OkCupid’s databases,” Pariser writes. “Your accessories can say, that girl over there is an eighty-eight percent match. That’s a dream come true!”
The flip side, however, is a potential nightmare if those same displays start revealing information about how much money you make, how many sexual partners you’ve had or any other information you may not want to reveal on a first date.
Downey's advice? Use fake profile names and email addresses and think about every bit of information you post. Better still, if you're truly concerned about privacy, find a different way to meet people.
"Think twice before posting any content on OkCupid or any other dating website," Downey wrote. "Even if you delete it later, it may be archived permanently."