The Dating Brokers: An Autopsy of Online Love

In May 2017, Tactical Tech and artist Joana Moll purchased 1 million online dating profiles for 136€ from USDate, a supposedly US-based company that trades in dating profiles from all over the globe. 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. Purchasing this data exposed a vast network of companies that are capitalising on this information without the conscious consent of the users, whom ultimately are the ones being exploited. An extensive report on the origin of the profiles and the vast network of companies that are capitalising on them can be found here.

This project attempts to cast light on well established practices in the global online dating ecosystem, which are crucial to its business model but mostly opaque to their users. We believe that such practices raise alarming ethical, moral and legal questions which urgently need to be addressed, as dating profiles contain intimate information on users and the over-exploitation and misuse of this data can have dramatic effects on their lives.

This project has been developed by Joana Moll in collaboration with Ramin Soleymani and Tactical Tech.

Published 16 November 2018