I’ve been stalked twice – both times based on partial information that was publicly available. Compared to what some of my peers have endured, neither was bad – a letter here, a message there.
But it was still unnerving, and I’m a big-ass cis het straight white dude. With a dog. And weaponry.
That’s why, when I found out that Google helpfully gave me the full name, schools, and more from someone who had just given me her first name and phone number, I wrote about it right away.
That’s because with dating sites (hell, dating at all), you want to reveal information about yourself at your own pace.
Which makes OK Cupid’s insistence you use your real name now so damn wrong.
Sure, they say in that blog post “with this change, we won’t be collecting full names; instead, we encourage our users to go by the name they’d like their dates to call them”, but that is not what users are greeted with when they sign in. They just get a page saying “We’re switching to using real names now”. So let’s go with what most users are going to see: That they’re supposed to use their real first name.
Again, I’m a big-ass cis het straight white dude. I am not a vulnerable population here.1 So I try to take the pressure off by volunteering information about me. Here’s my blog, here’s my phone number, you can find my Facebook pretty easily and see what I write.
But that example with the phone number still bugged me. What if someone used the same picture on their profile that they used elsewhere on the web (or FSM forbid, tie their instagram account to the dating profile)? Reverse image search could expose a lot more private information than they intended to reveal.
|Notice that it’s not the exact same picture, just close enough.
From that second match you could get my full name…
And again, I am not a particularly vulnerable population here1. Women and LGBTQIA folks have a lot more to risk by making it easier for people to tie their dating profile to their IRL identity. It’s not hard to find stories like the one starting out the Verge article where guys tracked down a woman and berated her for not responding to their message on OKC.
Even though I go to great lengths to be open about what kind of person I am, and make a point of explicitly asking for a polite “no” instead of silence… I usually get silence. And it’s because guys who actually do that are freaking rare. And I’m okay with that – I understand why there’s no response offered.
Because I’m not the one at risk here. And getting angry messages is the low end of the kind of violence that our culture is steeped in.
As I said, I’ve had similar experiences of being recognised – in one case someone attempted to blackmail me, threatening to get me fired from my public facing civil service job, by using answers to q’s as evidence. I’ve since left that job, and this was part of the reason.
— mrgrahamreed (@mrgrahamreed) December 22, 2017
Again, remember that with just a first name and a phone number – and without trying – I could find out a lot about an OKC user that she didn’t explicitly want me to know.
Now there’s going to be a lot more folks who are going to be outed – whether they want to be or not – and a lot more people who are a lot more vulnerable.
And all this for a “real names” policy that supposedly doesn’t care if you use your real name.
I was out of my closets on OkCupid, but I’ve deactivated because of this policy. I already had my face on display, my name is too much.
Also, if it doesn’t matter which name we use, why is there even this policy in the first place?
— Please @ Me | Amélia (@SlayZeKyriarchy) December 22, 2017
Now, I’m gonna bet that the OK Cupid folks who came up with this did not intend for anyone to get outed, stalked, or hurt.
Because this looks like privilege.
The people who made this policy don’t have anything to hide. Maybe they never had anything they had to keep secret from a family member or friend or neighbor.
But if I wanted to tie my IRL activities to my dating profile, I’d post a copy of my profile on my lawn.
Instead, I’m finally deactivating my account.
1 Well, I guess I am, since I date polyamorously, but I won’t be judged for that nearly as much as a woman would. And this is only the second time that I’ve explicitly said as much in many years.