Love seekers sacrifice privacy looking for a mate using Big Data

By Liu Caiyu Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/11 19:38:39

More than 200 single ladies and men participate in a matchmaking activity in Chongqing on May 19. Photo: VCG


Chinese singles are spoilt for choice when it comes to dating apps. While these apps assist the forlorn souls find each other for a perfect match, users have to first surrender their most private information in order to know another.

It may seem innocuous but the perils of online dating are aplenty. When singles try websites for romantic jaunts, they are oblivious of being used by Big Data.

Data risks being shared

Xue, 30, registered on dating app Soul with his real name, seeking to find a partner or spend some good time with a girl.

The Soul app requires users to fill in not only basic information like birth and home address but also more personal and psychological information.

Questions like how do you act when you are in an emergency or how do you like others to comment on you, or what's your view on different careers are meant to peep into a person's mind and the way they wish to spend time and money.

"Big Data would help find the perfect match, someone who has similar tastes and habits. Two people who share similar views and tastes are happier together, studies have found," Wu Yunnan, a relationship expert and founder and CEO of a Beijing-based relationship consulting organization, told the Global Times.

Since he registered on Soul at the end of 2017, Xue has not yet met a girl he likes.

"I talked with a girl who was matched by a robot as 96 percent compatible with me, but we did not hit it off," Xue said. "I will be screwed if I completely believe in Big Data matchmaking," he said.

Big Data, as a complementary method for seeking partners, would offer at least 30 percent assistance for a suitable relationship, Zhai Wenjing, co-founder and chief operating officer of, a site specializing in Big Data industy observation, told the Global Times.

Wu agrees. "Big Data cannot be only relied upon for marriage. Human beings are individuals with independent mindsets and strong social attributes. True love can only bloom through the right marital values."

However, the information on dating sites is at risk of being used by others since the platforms also act as information sharers. 

A February report on the dating industry by iReseach not only analyzed the industry but also users' shopping habits, apps they frequent, and consumption levels. More detailed personal information like their preferred travel destinations, hotel brands, and means of transport are included in the report.

Wu said if users agree, dating sites would turn to third-party apps from which they hope to get to know them better, such as fetching data from online takeout sites or e-commerce shopping sites.

"Using big data as a matchmaking facility definitely compromises your privacy to some degree. But if that data can lead you to your true love, I think it's worth the sacrifice. After all, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages," Wu said.

Asked if Xue's privacy could be affected while using the app, he said there is no privacy online.

"I was myself exposed when I registered at a securities company. I had nothing to lose," he told the Global Times.

Many users have given up the will to fight for their legal rights, just like Xue. Gao, 27, said she is aware of her information being shared online but found her boyfriend on a dating site called Coffee Meets Bagel.

"As an user, there is nothing I can do," Gao said. "Only hoping the government would act to curb breach of online privacy."

Underground businesses

"Recording personal data and sharing them across platforms is controversial. Only a few companies have open deals like data sharing plan among e-commerce shopping site, search engine Baidu and news provider Most ventures are underground," Zhang Yi, CEO of iiMedia Research, a Guangdong-based consulting company, said.

Private deals among online businesses allow them to disclose and share data stolen by  viruses and trojans installed on your phone apps or the web, without you knowing it, Zhang added.

The IMEI, a unique identification number for mobile handsets, is the most important information carrier, able to record your personal information and preferences while you browse websites or use apps. Nearly 95 percent frequently used apps on phones have this function, said Zhang.

He called on the industry to adopt stricter self-regulation and the government to make more specific laws to protect privacy.


Newspaper headline: Bad romance


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