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A team led by Elizabeth Bruch, a sociologist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, tapped into this torrent of dating data.

Because of a nondisclosure agreement, the researchers can't reveal the exact source of their subjects, describing it only as an "established, marriage-oriented, subscription-based dating site" from which they randomly selected 1855 people, all based in New York City.

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And it appeared again in 2010, when Pete Warden, a former Apple engineer, exploited a flaw in Facebook’s architecture to amass a database of names, fan pages, and lists of friends for 215 million public Facebook accounts, and announced plans to make his database of over 100 GB of user data publicly available for further academic research.

a group of Danish researchers publicly released a dataset of nearly 70,000 users of the online dating site Ok Cupid, including usernames, age, gender, location, what kind of relationship (or sex) they’re interested in, personality traits, and answers to thousands of profiling questions used by the site.

When asked whether the researchers attempted to anonymize the dataset, Aarhus University graduate student Emil O. Kirkegaard, who was lead on the work, replied bluntly: “No.

More recently, subscribers to elite dating site Beautiful People, which only allows people who are perceived to be highly attractive to subscribe, also had their details leaked online, including their income, address, relationship status and virtually every biometric data point imaginable, including weight, eye colour and hair colour.

While the site has been criticised for removing people for perceivedly being too old or not good looking enough, no one has come forward with a reason for why they hacked to site. And are those who use specialist sites - be they for 'elite' groups, people looking for an affair, or anything else - more at risk than those who use "vanilla" dating services?

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