Is OkCupid's Dating Data Safe with Match.Com?

There are millions of fish in the sea and, it seems, nearly as many online dating sites. But few have captured users' hearts quite the way OkCupid has. Launched in 2004 by a quartet of Harvard mathematicians, OkCupid has attracted more than 7 million users thanks to its low-cost, social-media-savvy, statistically driven approach to dating.

By Dan Tynan
Sat, February 12, 2011

PC World — There are millions of fish in the sea and, it seems, nearly as many online dating sites. But few have captured users' hearts quite the way OkCupid has. Launched in 2004 by a quartet of Harvard mathematicians, OkCupid has attracted more than 7 million users thanks to its low-cost, social-media-savvy, statistically driven approach to dating.

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Unlike most dating sites, OkCupid lets users set up profiles and contact other members without having to pay fees. (A $10-per-month "A List" version lets members cruise ad-free profiles and access additional features.) Members can set up their own blogs, take quizzes, and compose questions for other users to answer. The company's popular blog, OkTrends, mines site data for trends and offers tongue-in-cheek relationship advice.

As a result, OkCupid has garnered a younger, more technologically plugged-in audience than conventional dating sites. But geeks aren't the only ones attracted to OkCupid. Internet dating giant Match.com was so smitten that it bought the site for $50 million earlier this month. That transaction has some OkCupid users a little worried.

Jesse W., a graduate student in Southern California who's been active on OkCupid since shortly after it launched, says "my heart was broken when I heard the news. I immediately posted about it on Facebook and called and texted my friends, who sent me their condolences. I won't advocate for the bully of online dating like I did when OkCupid's owners cared about its members."

OkCupid's fans were not reassured by the immediate disappearance of an OkTrends blog entry from last April (you can find a cached copy here). Titled "Why you should never pay for online dating," the blog post by OkCupid cofounder Christian Rudder accused for-pay dating sites eHarmony and Match.com of misleading consumers with statistics that don't accurately represent their success rates.

OkCupid's CEO, Sam Yagan, says that he decided to remove the blog post on his own, deeming it to contain inaccurate assumptions about the other sites' data. "It was the common sense thing to do," he says. He also maintains that OkCupid will continue to operate separately from Match.com and be free for most users.

The question then becomes, what happens to the trove of personal data that OkCupid has amassed?

Whose Data Is It, Anyway?

Not surprisingly for a site founded by math geeks, OkCupid is extremely data driven.

The site's OkTrends blog employs sophisticated statistical analysis to offer advice on topics like how guys can tell whether their odds of scoring on a first date are better or worse than average (ask her if she likes the taste of beer), which digital cameras make people look the hottest (Panasonic's Micro4/3s), and what the biggest lies told by online daters are (how much money they make and how tall they are).

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