OkCupid: Where Love and Data Transparency Don’t Match

Welcome to the tale of Emil Kirkegaard, a Danish postgraduate student, who has achieved worldwide notoriety for publishing data from the dating site, OkCupid.  The story is well-told in a Vox article by Brian Resnick (click here).  In addition to a committing a number of ethical sins, both mortal and venal, the case of Mr. Kirkegaard raises important issues for the data transparency movement.  Mr. Kirkegaard stated that he needed to make his data — which was collated from the OkCupid website and “publicly” accessible to OkCupid users — available because that was the condition for submission to an open access journal where he was hoping to publish his research (hopes that were no doubt encouraged by the fact that he was the editor of the journal).  
Perhaps more interesting are the ethical issues this case raises.  Some of these issues are discussed in a blog by Oliver Keyes (click here).  OkCupid will likely file a legal complaint which may involve Open Science Framework (OSF), the online host of Kirkegaard’s data.  Given the open hosting nature of OSF, it seems unlikely that OSF will be at much legal risk. But how about journals (such as Economics Letters) that encourage submitters to post their data on open access data sites like OSF and Dataverse?  Are they legally liable for data improprieties?  Or how about journals that post article supplementary material such as data and code on the journal website?  Are they legally responsible if the data violates copyright or other legal requirements?  And if this is a legal grey area, will this have a chilling effect on the data transparency movement?  Stay tuned.

 

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