When open science goes bad – researchers scrape and release personal data of 70k OKCupid Users

We all love OKCupid’s wonderful insights, gained because of the site’s algorithm and the fact that users often answer thousands of personal questions while using the site.

 

Apparently, this has not escaped some Danish researchers of dubious ethical standards, who scraped the site for publicly available info (the site is free to use and is a dating site, after all) such as names, genders, religion, personality traits and answers to many very personal questions (not pictures, though, because “that would have taken up too much hard drive space”).  This was done without contacting anyone involved, not even the website itself. Then the info was dumped onto an online open science forum for the world to see. Dick move, guys.

It looks like the people involved, although flippant and obnoxious when called out on social networks about this, frankly, rather mean act are already being dumped in it by the University they are supposedly associated with. Also, OKCupid are probably going to file an official complaint and take legal action. Hopefully this will drive the point in, as they seem to not really understand the difference between publicly available on a site and free for anyone to use for their own purposes.

People dating on a dating site deserve privacy and the ability to express themselves online in a safe forum. Taking away that right is a violation. To me, it’s the online equivalent of basically being  a peeping tom or recording people’s private conversations in a cafe. There are laws against peeping and recording people without their knowledge and hopefully, as these researchers violated the OKCupid terms of service, there’s a law or a rule that will be used to make sure these people get the slap they deserve. I must say it’s a terrifying thought to think of people with such lack of empathy and a blatant disregard for people’s privacy working in anything related to psychology. I hope they never deal with actual patients, though I’d be wary of even being a research subject for them, to be honest.

You can read more about this story here. There are also screen grabs of Twitter discussions with the friendly researchers (hint: this is his publicly available Twitter account). This might be handy for anyone who might want to chime in on the subject of ethics and stuff (in a respectable manner, of course).

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