Thousands Of OkCupid Users Just Had Their Personal Information Leaked

By : Jennifer BrowneTwitterLogo

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Researchers have leaked profile data on 70,000 OkCupid users after creating a programme to scan profiles on the site.

Usernames, ages, star signs, locations, number of pictures and – most controversially – their sexual preferences have all been leaked.

The information was collected by Danish researchers who never contacted OkCupid or its clientele about using it.

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Obviously, with all of that information, it’s easy for anyone to identify who each account belonged to. And, if you had an account on the site between November 2014 and March 2015 when they collected data, you could be affected.

The leak happened when researchers created a computer ‘scanner’ to search through profiles automatically, Vox reports.

Basically, they ran software to ‘scrape’ the information off OkCupid’s website and then uploaded the data onto the Open Science Framework, an online forum where researchers are encouraged to share data to increase collaboration on social science.

The researchers who leaked the data wrote that OkCupid is a valuable source of survey information ‘because users often answer hundreds if not thousands of questions.’

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But the data set revealed some pretty personal information about many users, including questions as specific as regarding religion, politics and favourite films – but also if users have ever broken the law, taken drugs, or tried out BDSM.

The data leak didn’t reveal anyone’s real name, but by using a user’s location, demographic, and OkCupid username, it’s very possible to determine their identity.

Scott Weingart, a Digital Humanities Specialist at Carnegie Mellon University, estimated he could find the real names of more than 10,000 of those usernames listed, and later raised this estimate to 20,000. He also added that some of those affected were LGBT in countries where that was a criminal offence.

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The research, by Emil Kirkegaard, Oliver Nordbjerg, and Julius Daugbjerg Bjerrekær, all affiliated with the University of Aarhus in Denmark – although the university is not believed to have endorsed the research – has been condemned as unethical, even if the data was public.

Oliver Keyes, a social computing researcher, wrote on his blog: “This is without a doubt one of the most grossly unprofessional, unethical and reprehensible data releases I have ever seen.”

Basically, it’s a major data breach that hasn’t been thought through. Thousands of users have had their personal information leaked and it’s 100 per cent identifiable if you connect the dots.

If you’re on OkCupid, check you’re not affected.


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