Aarhus, Denmark – A group of three researchers affiliated with the Aarhus University of Denmark have uploaded the profiles of 70,000 OkCupid users into a public network used for scientific research.

Emil Kirkegaard, along with his research partners Oliver Nordbjerg and Julius Daugbjerg Bjerrekær, announced the publication of the data on their Twitter account with a link to the Open Science Framework website.

Data from 70,000 OkCupid users was leaked by researchers
Three researchers from Aarhus University exposed the personal data of 70,000 OkCupid users for a scientific research. Credit: NBC News

The team of researchers has been criticized on social media and in the scientific community for violating the privacy of millions of users, while displaying their personal information that include political beliefs, sexual orientation, demographic location, between others.

OkCupid data is now public 

The team published data collected since November 2014 to March 2015 from OkCupid users that did not approve the publication nor did the website.

According to critics and experts, the leaked data breaks a cardinal rule in social science ethics, since it took personal data from people without their approval to publish it into the Open Science Framework (OSF).

The OSF is a free and open source for social science researchers. Users can access public data to use on their analysis. The website works by researchers and users uploading raw data so the community can work together in collaboration.

According to Vox, Kirkegaard and his team, they scraped the data because OkCupid users have to answer hundreds of questions that could be used in social scientific researches.

The published data doesn’t include real names of the users but it shows their usernames, location, demographics and opinions on personal sexual habits, fidelity, politics, etc.

Ethics on the data

After the data went public and viral concern was shown into the leaked profiles, mentioning the violation of private opinions and information that wasn’t meant for social scientific research.

Since none of the users within the leaked data approved their information to be public, research using the data might be considered unethical.

The team did not eliminate nor scrape profile pictures of the users either because “it would have taken up a lot of hard drive space” said Kirkegaard and his team in a separate paper.

Denmark University has assured that the three students are not working on behalf of the university, but in a personal and separate way.

The data is also being questioned by the Open Science Framework and whether they should be involved in the gatekeeping of the published data.

Source: Open Psych Forum