Online dating company Gotham Dating Partners has announced plans to create profiles for non-registered individuals based on publicly available information on social networking sites.
The company operates several dating sites, including: Dons and Divas, Faithful Lover, Marry Me First, Prison Hookup, and Ugly People Date. Incorporated in New York in January 2010 by Aaron Fraser, it is the parent of online footwear startup LeBron Jordan, which came under fire from Nike this month for potential trademark infringement.
According to the company's marketing vice president Damon Jordan, the dating service had about 6.5 million members in the US and elsewhere, including Australia.
But that figure was set to rise exponentially in the coming weeks.
Jordan said the site would soon host some 340 million profiles after scraping information from social networking sites, e-mail registries, mailing lists, marketing surveys, government census records, real estate listings and business websites to create new dating profiles.
Gotham Dating Partners hoped to position itself as a dating service as well as a "public information source" for individuals and corporations needing accurate information on US citizens, Jordan said.
The site announced that the changes would "in no way affect our international clients". But Jordan said any online, public information - including information about Australians - would be used.
Jordan did not expect to face any privacy issues by aggregating publicly available information, stating: "If the information is public, there are no privacy issues."
"For example, if you open a Facebook account and your setting are not set to private, all of that information is in the public domain, it is free for the taking," he told iTnews.
"Wherever we can extract information about you, we will, as long as it's in the public domain.
"In essence, all Australians who have a Facebook page, whose profiles are set to public, will be on our registry."
Jordan said the company hoped to improve public safety by ensuring members' profiles were accurate.
"This is actually a protective measure to ensure that the information posted by our members are indeed accurate," he said. "It must mesh with what is already out there about them."
The only way for an individual to be excluded from the database would be to log in, submit their information and then delete their profile, he said.
Best check your privacy settings
Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgram warned that the automatic creation of identifiable profiles of individuals without their knowledge was "not good privacy practice".
"Organisations covered under the Privacy Act 1988 are generally required to provide individuals with notice that their information is being collected," he told iTnews.
"These organisations should also only use the information for the purpose for which it was collected, must store the information securely, and must delete it when it is no longer needed for that purpose.
"These obligations apply even when the personal information is publicly available."
Pilgrim advised individuals to read websites' privacy policies to ensure they are aware of how their personal information would be used.
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