Tech NGO Investigates Dating Profile Sellers ‘USDate’

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A Berlin NGO called Tactical Tech has collaborated with researcher and artist Joana Moll to investigate data brokers who sell personal dating profiles in bulk.

Tactical Tech works “at the intersection of technology, human rights and civil liberties”, contributing to the “socio-political debate around digital security, privacy and the ethics of data.”

The project was called “The Dating Brokers: An autopsy of online love”, and involved the purchase of 1 million online dating profiles.

They were purchased for €136 from a company trading as “USDate”, registered as “General Dating Industry Support Services LLC”. The company now appears to be trading as “Dating Business Support Services”.

Some of USDate’s marketing materials can be found below.

The authors describe USDate as a ‘black hat’ company. Such companies collect dating profiles and sell them directly to brands. Many have been implicated in scams or criminal activity.

Their piece reads: “The batch of dating profiles we purchased included pictures (almost 5 million of them), usernames, e-mail addresses, nationality, gender, age and detailed personal information about all of the people who had created the profiles, such as their sexual orientation, interests, profession, thorough physical characteristics and personality traits.”

By reverse image searching and analysing image metadata, the NGO was able to trace the profiles back to their source. It seems that many were taken from Match Group’s brand Plenty Of Fish (POF), though others may have been faked.

A 2013 BBC investigation into USDate found that it was responsible for producing fake profiles and helping brands to stock their sites with these.

USDate says that it sells “100% legal dating profiles as we have permission from the owners. Selling fake profiles is illegal because generated fake profiles use real people’s photos without their permission.”

It claims to have partnered with large brands including Badoo, Spark Networks and OkCupid.

GDI has reached out to Tactical Tech for more information.

Read more here.

UPDATE 16/11/2018:

A Match Group spokesperson told GDI:

“No Match Group property has ever bought, sold or worked with USDate in any capacity. We do not sell user’s personally identifiable information and have never sold profiles to any organization. Any attempt by USDate to pass us off as partners is patently false.”