And here you thought Mark Zuckerberg was the most egregious offender in the "selling your personal data to marketers and advertisers" category. But, it turns out that OKCupid is sending your gender, age, zip code, relationship status and "drug use frequency" to two different companies that sell personal data in auctions.
The companies doing the auctioning, BlueKai and Lotame, owned up to a partnership with OKCupid but claimed only to capture "standard demographic attributes" for the selling.
The study results were presented at a conference in D.C. set up by a number of privacy advocacy groups. Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Liebowitz spoke at the conference, but didn't address the study specifically. He did, however, refer to online trackers as "cyber-azzi" that "follow us as we browse… every time we click so do they."
He noted that the FTC is looking for ways to "cap the lenses of the cyber-azzi," using tools like a do-not-track feature that can be added to your browser. It should be noted in fairness that around forty-five percent of the top 185 U.S. websites share information you've entered while on their site. However, most of this information is username or site-generated user id, as opposed to information you enter while trying to find love.
Online privacy is one of those gray areas of the internet: we're comfortable spreading our drunken pictures around, but we get all huffy if Facebook figures out that we like jeans and tells Levi's. And I'm less indignant about, say, Amazon sharing my buying habits than I am about my list of Likes getting sold at auction.
That said, learning that OKCupid is selling both my relationship status ("Forever alone") and drug use frequency ("Sheen-esque") is a bit more unsavory. Generally, we're more inclined to share more about ourselves for the sake of romance, and the fact that they're literally selling that information to the highest bidder is reprehensible. I'm not under the illusion that OKCupid is an entirely charitable organization, but there's a level of betrayal present in their bartering of our personal data. It's taking advantage of us when we're most vulnerable.