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Posted at 1:25 PM ET, 01/13/2011

OKCupid online dating service tweaks privacy controls

By Hayley Tsukayama

Meeting that special someone online is far more commonplace now, but Internet privacy is still a major obstacle for some of those who use dating Web sites. A drop-down menu can let a user find profiles matching certain attributes, and a persistent worry for some has been their lack of control over who can see them.

Last week, OKCupid launched new features giving its users more control, announcing them in targeted e-mails. In an e-mail that went out to some gay users, for example, the site listed some reasons why, for example, those users may want to hide their OkCupid profile from straight users. "Maybe you're not out to everyone yet," the site offered, "maybe you don't want straight women hitting on you."

Sam Yagan, a spokesperson for OKCupid said the new settings address a lot of issues users have raised over the years. "Something that we have noticed for a while is that there are various people who say part of their apprehension with online dating is that elements of their personal life will be discovered," he said.

In addition to members of the gay community who may want their information hidden from straight users, Yagan offered the examples of teachers wishing to hide their profiles from students or younger women who don't want to deal with advances from older men.

Posting a profile on an online dating site requires a certain comfort level with publicly displaying personal information, but OKCupid has sought to address those privacy concerns by offering this option.

And while the dating site doesn't get any additional advertising or immediate benefit from the move, the increased functionality may help fight the stigma that surrounds online dating, particularly for OKCupid and other free dating sites. While other, paid sites and their pricetags make for a certain degree of self-selection, free sites pull from much a broader range of users, which may not always be a positive thing.

Increasing privacy controls at least gives users a slightly safer, more sophisticated online dating experience. Yagan said that OKCupid has gotten "tremendous feedback"since implementing the feature. "People are grateful," he said.

By Hayley Tsukayama  | January 13, 2011; 1:25 PM ET
Categories:  Privacy, Social media  
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Wow, so OKC is big enough to merit a WaPo entry? That's amazing!

Posted by: bs2004 | January 13, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Huh. I might start using it again. I got so tired of getting hit on by septuagenarians.

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Posted by: addjian16 | January 13, 2011 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Reverse search would be nice to have as well. I had an Indian friend once tell me, he just wanted to talk to women who were interested in Indian guys. The reason niche dating sites exist is because people want to search in more refined pools of people with various specific lifestyles, cultures, religions and preferences. But if search were more powerful, niche sites wouldn't be needed.

Mark Brooks
usa 212-444-1636 / uk 020-8133-1835

Posted by: Mark_Brooks | January 15, 2011 3:05 PM | Report abuse

People who want increased privacy when using online dating sites can create and upload a "teaser image" from instead of using their regular photo. Teaser images, created from a person's own photo, are modified to give a general idea of what a person looks like while still protecting their identity. Users of the site can control who has access to see their real pictures. And their photos are protected using site technology which reduces the risk that their photos will be 'captured' onto someone else's computer and then possibly used for unintended purposes.

Posted by: iDaterInfo | January 17, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

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