When an Internet user signs up for one of the many online dating sites, they are making data available for other users of the site to see. However, the question is whether that makes the information public or not.
Experts are considering that question after a research group released data of close to 70,000 users from OkCupid a site online for dating.
The group of researchers, who have an affiliation with Denmark’s Aarhus University, used a browser extension that is designed to “scrape” data from pages on the web to collect data.
In other words, the group collected the information without the permission of OkCupid, breaking the terms of usage of the site and a Computer Fraud and Abuse Act said a spokesperson from OkCupid.
This data was then uploaded on a forum online that encourages online researchers to share data, but has been removed since then.
The data that was scraped revealed many details of users including name, gender, age, religion as well as information about the preferences and habits of users.
When asked if the site took sufficient measures to make the data anonymous, the leader researchers said no, the data was public knowledge already.
The researchers wrote that some people might object to the ethics in gathering then releasing data, but the data found on the dataset was already available to the public so releasing it merely presented it to the world in a more useful form.
However, even though the data is available for other users, the big question is should the public be given it through a post.
While the OkCupid website allows registered users to look at profiles of others members, that in itself does not justify the releasing of the information to the general public say many.
The profiles on OkCupid included personal information from sexual habits to political views. OkCupid asks users hundreds of different questions to help the algorithm it uses to generate matches that are better. It tells its users the more different questions they answer the more likely they will find their perfect match.
Although researchers did not release the real names of any users with the huge data release, just the user names of the profiles, that is not considered a way of maintaining confidentiality, said privacy experts.
One user on Twitter claimed that he was able to link some bits of that data to actual names of over 10,000 users on the dating site.