OkCupid moderators read private messages between users

Privacy

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okcupidOkCupid (and other online dating site) users might be surprised to learn that certain third-party users of the online dating site have been able to read their private correspondence for years now. While OKCupid recently addressed the privacy issue, third party “moderators” are still gaining limited access to some private user information.

What sort of information? They could look in on private conversations between two OKCupid users, as well profile info that wasn’t available to the public, including photos, email address, and other contact info. Only one person in the conversation–the person who asked the moderator to look in–knew it was being watched by an outsider.

When one party flags another user, a moderator is directed to review the material and determine whether it is in violation of the site’s terms of use. Recently, moderators have publicly indicated they are only receiving flagged images (a sign OkCupid is no longer permitting moderators to read private messages between users). 

Over the past few years, OkCupid has granted “moderator” status to select regular users of the website. The moderators seem to have acquired this privilege by a random computer algorithm, giving preference to active longer-term users who have had no complaints filed against them. Oddly, it seems some moderators did not even request the status.

Worst of all, some moderators have taken advantage of their unexpected front row seats to the online interactions between OkCupid users. At the expense of unsuspecting users, some moderators have posted users’ private interactions to blogs such as http://thatsnotokcupid.com/. While blogs like this highlight some of the darker, creepy, and dangerous sides of interacting with users on dating sites like this, it is perhaps more indicative of the dangers of trusting a big-name website with your private information.

For more on OKCupid privacy, check out our blog post: “Your privacy on OKCupid: the unromantic truth.”

11 Replies to “OkCupid moderators read private messages between users”

  1. Mark Oberg says:

    Most people would be surprised to learn that OKCupid is owned by the sane group that owns Match.com and many other popular dating sites. If you look closely at the terms, you will see that your OKC profile can be repurposed on Match or any other site owned by that group, without notice or permission.

    I would suspect that, when Match is low on paying customers who match a certain profile or location, they tap into OKC and make selected profiles available for matching. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is up to you. Some might consider that to be an added benefit.

  2. matt says:

    I’m a photo moderator on OKC and am not very impressed with the “That’s not OKCupid” blog.

    I was chosen at random, and didn’t ask to be a moderator, but i don’t mind doing a bit of it, if it makes other peoples dating experience that bit better.
    We try and winnow out those using fake pictures – or no pictures – or those with fake or abusive profiles.
    I dont copy any information out of OKC – even when you do sometimes see sections of some daters conversations, that are weird or bizarre.
    Personally I think its a good idea to get other users to act as the first line of moderation and to help make the site work well.

  3. CupesMod says:

    Yes, I mod for OkCupid. I was selected randomly after about three months of use. I hate the blogs that take advantage of users’ information or conversations, especially the users who aren’t acting maliciously. I think there’s a lot of pressure that people don’t realize, and there are lots of reasons for these awkward communications.

    Some people are shy or don’t know what to say when they first message someone(A lot like in real life). Which can result in awkwardness ensuing. Lots of people, I ascertain, join the site for bad reasons(such as recent break ups). That leads to lots of poor interactions. Also there are so many guys on there for the wrong reasons/hook ups in particular. As a result of perpetually being asked for sex and the sheer volume of messages, lots of women completely ignore men’s messages. Have that happen the first dozen or two dozen times you try to contact various women, and you might just break down/start saying weird shit! Throwing hail maries left and right!! Also girls frequently say things like “You need to do better than just saying hi or introducing yourself” in their profiles, which I’ve always felt leads guys to say the weirdest things they can think of… Why can’t “Hi my name is ______. I really like your dog! Want to grab a coffee?” be enough?

    There’s a lot of pressure, to be honest, on men to say something flawless on first contact, and very few ever do. Women rarely are the first to contact men, as they are perpetually filtering through messages from dozens of men(many of which are either 50 years old, complete creepers, or trying to not so subtly solicit sex). I can’t even tell you how many of my guy friends who have used the site mentioned the difficulty to actually get a reply from the girls they like… Many of them break down and contemplate deleting their profiles daily. I just think it’s wrong to take messages out of this context and place them in a blog or to mock these people. There’s a lot of stress involved in dating/finding the right person in general, not to mention the complication of the internet. There’s no need to make these people feel any worse. After all their only crime really is trying to find companionship. What’s so wrong with that?

  4. M says:

    I’m a female OKC photo moderator and got randomly selected just like all the other moderators connected to the OKC website. Processes +500 complaints or cases now, only been 2-3 pictures, which were delete worthy. Honestly, I think people should focus on dating and only flag, then a picture or profile completely violate OKC rules. Being a moderator is fairly boring, you process the cases and move on. However, moderating is safety measurement and if we can make dating more safe , then it’s a good thing.

    • jane says:

      To M–I went out with someone who’s a moderator. I’m curious–would he be able to view my interactions with others or see who I’ve been communicating with, without me flagging any interactions? I have some suspicions.

      • anonym says:

        I’m a moderator – so to speak – and the answer to your question is no. No moderator can see personal information unless a particular picture or other facet has been flagged, and even then, moderators can only see the flagged item in question.

  5. singsong245 says:

    I was anxious to know why some conversations disappear with some contacts on the POF dating site. This evening a conversation with a person disappeared within 20 mins and the conversation was ok with me. I searched and searched and could not find any sign of that person. This has happened a few times with me, and when I looked into it in depth this evening I came across a ‘Moderator’ and wondered if you could enlighten me why this is happening. Is the person contacting me not as he should be? I would appreciate if you could let me know.
    Thank you

  6. Mr M says:

    Every time I create an OK cupid account it gets banned after a few weeks. Absolutely nothing inappropriate with my pictures or profile. No harrasing behaviour, messages or comments to anyone. The last two profiles I never interacted with anyone, just looked at matches. What I think I’m guilty of is not wanting to be the boyfriend of a moderator. I met her on the site, went on one date, she got all creepy referring to me as her boyfriend and talking about who her bridesmaid would be in our wedding, putting a pic of me that she took on the date, as her FB profile pic. So not too surprisingly I declined a 2nd date. Shortly after that my account got banned and every new one gets banned soon after I create it.

  7. Wyatt_Dean says:

    After a break up that happened a while back, I returned to the site OkCupid and had been selected to be a moderator just yesterday. Of the perhaps 8 hours of moderating, I find it to be not all that juicy.Of anything, I’d consider most of my input as non-impacting.

    For starts, it seem I only have the power to judge flagged profile photos and if they violate the terms of agreement in any way. Of the photos i skim through, about 85% of them are of the minor violation of not being a picture of the user. It’s usually some arbitrary photo of some landscape, artwork, or their pet. Why this is something is of no importance considering those profiles also a picture of the user in their album. I’ve seen many of the moderators say to “move to album” but sadly it isn’t an option. It’s either delete, leave the photo alone, or I don’t know. But the true kicker is that the user’s face need not be shown in the profile picture.

    Along with each photo, we are given a small summary of the profile. The information provided: the number of days that it has existed on the site, the number of reports the profile has had, and the items flagged on their account; be it a photo, message, or the account itself. Of that information, we can only look at two aspects of it: their photos, and profile. Messages are out of our control, so why even show moderators that they have reported message in their history. Its like telling jurors the criminal offences of a murderer included theft that predated the actual case, and that he was five years old at the time. From what I collected from this site, moderators were once allowed to look at private messages. that is until a couple of the more exploitative members ruined that for us. Thanks guys. Thanks a lot.

    You don’t need to bee on okcupid long to figure out that most of the users are not to be trusted, but even when you are lucky enough to be chosen to control this sea of smut, know the you cant properly do that thanks to everyday fools who were had the same job. Also, don’t count on getting any perks that those on A-list get. If you think a profile is a scam and go to investigate, it’s a real nice thing not being able to hide that visit of yours.

  8. T says:

    Come on, get real. This is just another social experiment being run by OKCupid. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out. Ask yourself, why would they choose absolutely random people as ‘moderators, regardless of any criteria used? She could be stalker or a psychopath, as could he. I sincerely believe some fools out there actually believe they have been ‘chosen’. I guess it reflects the woeful level of intelligence by many of the users of dating sites.

  9. Drabs says:

    For anyone reading the replies, mods can’t read messages and nobody who randomly dislikes you can get you banned unless you’ve actually done something. I suspect the person who thought a girl they dated was out to get them probably did something wrong, whatever it may have been. Perhaps they seemed like a scammer or posted something explicit. The point is, moderators, and anyone else on OkC, can report you but they can’t actually ban you. If your profile pic comes up when they’re looking at pics to moderate, then they get a say in whether your photo stays up, but so do a bunch of other moderators. Most moderators are a bit too generous, willing to let slightly too nude pics slide, so it’s unlikely they’d ban you unless you’ve actually done something wrong. In fact, they can’t even ban you since they only get a say in what happens to the one photo that’s been flagged. At worst, you’ll get a photo deleted.

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