Dating Site's Plans To Create Profiles By Scraping Social Networks: Publicity Stunt Or Just Dumb?

from the lawsuit-waiting-to-happen dept

If you thought Match.com was in legal trouble due to dead or fake profiles, just imagine the legal issues facing an Australian dating site that claims it's going to scrape social networking profiles and turn them into dating site profiles. I'm not even going to mention the name of the company, because I'm pretty sure this was just a publicity stunt to get its name in the press, before "backing away" from the plan. If it's an actual plan, it's stupid. Not just because of the potential privacy concerns and lawsuits, and not just because some of the social networks from which they scrape the info may find ways to sue them as well, but because this seems like a terrible strategy for a dating site. I mean, if you're looking to find a dating site where you're likely to actually meet someone, are you going to use the site where the vast majority of the "members" don't even know they're members? It's hard to see how that makes for a compelling pitch. And I'm not even getting into what will happen when it starts creating profiles of people who are married or in long term relationships...


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    Jeff, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 1:47am

    Why it will fail

    Who said I even put my real name, or pictures or any of the info stated?

     

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    Gracey (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 2:05am

    [And I'm not even getting into what will happen when it starts creating profiles of people who are married or in long term relationships...]

    Just imagine all the lawsuits from that one. Particularly if the couple already has trust issues.

    Beyond that, many social networks contain profiles of kids in age range of 12 to 16. Even more lawsuits from putting those into dating sites.

    I can't imagine any developer actually thinking this would be a good idea.

     

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    mike allen (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 2:09am

    Sheer stupidity class action lawsuit anyone.

    I can imagine also a number of divorced couples suing this site "I didnt know honest darling" followed by a loud OUCH.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 2:13am

    THATS sooooo illegal in canada

    i'm not even gonna bother to comment. TIS worse then stupid.

     

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    Schmoo, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 4:35am

    Check their shoes - if the laces are tied then it's a publicity stunt. If, on the other hand, they haven't managed to figure out how to tie shoelaces, then they *might* just be dumb enough to think that it was a good idea.

     

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    Hex (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 4:37am

    Not to mention

    Whenever I get emails from services claiming someone has messaged me and I'm not even a member/subscriber to their site they instantly get reported as spam, so I can see this working really well for them...

     

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    freak (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 4:51am

    "And I'm not even getting into what will happen when it starts creating profiles of people who are married or in long term relationships..."

    I'm going to assume they aren't THAT stupid, and will only grab profiles that list "single" and/or "looking" and if the age is available, that they would likewise only grab profiles of appropriate ages.

    The issue is more one of making profiles for people who don't want them, rather than which profiles they grab: they certainly have enough information at hand to grab the 'right' ones.

     

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      Gracey (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 7:30am

      Re:

      I'm sort of thinking if they really were stupid enough to come with an idea like that, they'd be stupid enough to grab everything.

      Besides, not everyone even completes the "single/married/whatever" part and I'd bet they'd forget to stipulate "ignore profiles with no designations".

      Just a bad idea all around I think.

       

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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 4:59am

    This is where the fun starts...

    So, you get a Facebook message or an email or divorce papers indicating that you know have a profile on this dating site even thought you are/were until a few minutes ago married.

    You head to the site to check it out. But... you can't view profiles (even the one featuring you) without creating a profile. Now you've got an actual profile on the site which, even if filled with fake info, is now residing in the part of the internet that never forgets, making it that much more of a slam dunk should your S.O.'s lawyer manage to get ahold of it.

    There's no incrimination quite like inadvertent self-incrimination. In these circumstances, I'd imagine anyone could mistake confusion for guilt, especially if something is already at the tipping point or someone's just looking for an "out."

     

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    Chris ODonnell (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 5:29am

    If divorce lawyers are behind the site it moves from stupid to brilliant but evil.

     

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    Jose_X, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 5:30am

    Which end?

    Aimed at very wealthy folks, the service might offer a way for these customers to "discover" talent out there who would then be approached through these intermediaries to see if they are interested in someone with lots of money. There might be a business opportunity here if done right. It would be like a private investigator or a talent firm focused on discovering "interesting" people and hooking them up with those willing to pay their fees.

    At the other end of the spectrum, a public info match business might simply work to harvest lots of info which they package in various interesting ways and essentially sell at low cost. I presume a customer would buy in cheaply and with few expectations (read the fine print).. mostly essentially to get access to their database compilations and some other value-add services if one wanted to spend more.

    Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and a number of other folks could try this sort of stuff but this would be asking for high risks to their existing profitable businesses. On the other hand, I can see how some of these companies with significant access to information might want to very quietly partner with some other groups that would bear the primary risk.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 5:49am

      Re: Which end?

      Informally and at a small scale, there have always been people to perform this service of trying to match people they know.

      Now with so much information accessible if you use the right harvesting tools (and more importantly perhaps, the right partnerships), match-making possibilities at a commercial scale have opened up.

      I can see vendors trying this and swearing they are using legal data (just look at how much we reveal on the Internet all the time), but there is tremendous opportunity for abuse to use private data to obtain candidates whom the match-maker would then try to steer towards the paying target.

      As much as some might dislike some of this, it seems almost inevitable to see Return of the Match-makers 2.0 and then 3.0, 4.0, etc, at least as long as we don't pass strong privacy laws or outright outlaw some of the businesses. The information is growing. Most people don't read TOS and wouldn't stop themselves from participating on account of most of them. The potential for many things is here, so expect exploitation of it.

      [BTW, as more people get comfortable with the idea and get online, if we see more successes than failures, I will presume that many people would find such services tolerable, even if they don't use them personally. And I'm sure there is plenty of a need to at least consider passing various privacy and/or other protection laws that would take precedence over TOS.]

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 5:50am

    Facebook already is a veiled dating site. Why people think this company 'scraping' data is worse than what FB and advertisers already do is curious.

    Oh I get it; you all think Facebook cares about your privacy still. Just adorable!

     

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    jilocasin, Jan 21st, 2011 @ 6:54am

    It's all about the numbers

    When it comes to social sites the PHB and Wall street believe it's all about the numbers.

    It's why Yahoo, Microsoft, heck even Google have tried converting their existing communities into social profiles.

    Everyone that hosts email has tried/is trying to convert all those accounts into profiles.

    Companies are trying to _manufacture_ a network effect. Not too many people care about a social site until enough of the people they care about are using it.

    The correct way is to have a compelling reason for people to use your site. Or failing that have the current leader implode. FaceBook is the current big kid on the block. Unless someone else offers something 'better' or FaceBook annoys enough people to get them to start leaving, another company is going to have a difficult time competing.

    This dating site, if it's real, is just trying to do what Google tried with GMail. To bulk up it's numbers to make itself more attractive.

    Wrong headed, lawsuit bait, but sadly what I've come to expect these days.

    Just making a truly compelling site is just too much work it seems.

     

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    Andrew (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 7:49am

    I'm inclined to agree with previous comments that they would (hopefully) only put up the profiles of people who reveal their ages and availability, together with (again hopefully) a photo, but even so - and ignoring the legal and ethical issues here - would anyone really want to trawl through so many dead profiles to find someone who may be interested?

    People who join dating sites are presumptively actively looking for a partner (or maybe just sex :) and OkCupid suggests the chance of getting a reply to a first message is only 25-30% for an average-looking guy or girl. The percentage for this model must be tiny.

     

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      Andrew (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 7:56am

      Re:

      Oops. I was reading the wrong part of the graphs. The figures are 45-50% for average looking / average looking, but I still wouldn't want to spend 15 minutes composing a message about how much I too like Madonna's oeuvre or our joint love for ukulele music.

       

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    Alex Macfie (profile), Jan 21st, 2011 @ 8:11am

    Facebook already is a veiled dating site.


    No it isn't. Its main use is for contacting people one already knows.

     

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