overexposure

Manhunt’s Despicable New Privacy Policy That Dumps Your Name + Photos Onto the Web Without Asking


While it may not benefit you to have all your personal information hanging out there like you’re wearing a pair of these, it surely benefits Facebook, which is why the social networking site continues freeballing it with your privacy. It’s not just that Facebook is handing your data to advertisers; you’ll recall the site flipped a switch and made most of your previously hidden data open to the public — unless you opted out. Well guess what: Manhunt.net is about to do the same.

In an email to members, the gay cruising site says “later this month, visitors to Manhunt will be able to search instantly from the login page, even if they don’t have an account yet. We’re making this change so that it’s even easier for guys to find each other on Manhunt. If you’re a fan of the additional exposure, you don’t have to do a thing! If you’d prefer to keep your profile hidden from guys who aren’t members of the site yet, it’s easy to adjust your privacy settings. If you like the extra attention, just keep the box checked. And don’t worry, only your public images will be visible, and nobody will be able to send you mail or IMs without logging in first. If you turn off your public profile, only registered, logged-in Manhunt members will be able to view your profile.”

What’s that mean? Manhunt, owned by Larry Basile and Jonathan Crutchley’s company Online Buddies, is opening up its walled garden of dick to the masses. And it’s very possible that by making its profile database available to anyone without requiring them to log in, that data will be made available to the nastiest of all big brothers: search engines. Previously blocked off from the Internet by the login requirement, Manhunt is now taking up Facebook’s M.O., which involves something about “data wanting to be free” and “who cares about the privacy of our customers”?

Many of you may think, “What’s the big deal? If you’re on Manhunt, anybody can find you anyhow.” Which is true — sort of. But currently, an employer Googling a known alias won’t be able to find you; they would have to have an account on Manhunt and search for you pecifically. And imagine all the closeted guys (heyyy!!) who forgot they even had a Manhunt account, or simply abandoned it or don’t sign in for three months at a time, whose “public photos” are suddenly now … much more public. At least requiring someone to sign up for a free Manhunt account before they could find you allowed you some peace of mind when it came to cruising.

It might be a response to the competition from Fabulis — which Manhunt’s owners started a mock feud with — which, like Facebook, makes much of your personal information available to the entire web, including your name and public photos. (If you’re on Fabulis, just Google “your name Fabulis” and see what pops up.)

If Manhunt wants to open up its entire member directory to the public, fine, but let members opt-in. Don’t force them to opt-out. It’s a shitty business practice in the name of juicing up traffic, and members should demand Manhunt halt its privacy exploitation. Yes, the site is free to change its terms of service whenever it wants, but when guys signed up for an account they did so with the understanding their information would at least be somewhat hidden from the rest of the web.

And you thought donating to John McCain was the only reason to be upset with Crutchley.

Update: Manhunt responds.

Hello from Manhunt,

There are a few points in this article that caught our attention as being particularly inaccurate, and we wanted to set the record straight. Well, straight-ish.

The one thing you got right: Yes, we are rolling out the ability to search for profiles without logging in. We feel that by allowing new visitors the ability to quickly scan through the site, they’ll be able to see firsthand that we have the world’s hottest guys.

Manhunt has NEVER allowed search engines to access member profiles, and that isn’t changing. Our search engine configuration file (known to the tech community as robots.txt) prohibits any indexing of our search results. See for yourself: http://www.manhunt.net/robots.txt. Even if a prospective employer did search for a name, they wouldn’t see anything come up from Manhunt.

And, unlike the sites we’ve been erroneously compared to, Manhunt never asks for your real name unless you’re purchasing a membership — and even then, that information is stored on a separate and secure database. We never have and never will display real names on Manhunt. You’ll have to ask him for it (and it helps to remember it when he comes over later).

As commenter Zach already noted, “there’s always been a public profile checkbox-that’s been around for a long time.” We’ve always given members the option to toggle their public profile visiblity with a single checkbox on the settings screen. Guys who are checking out public profiles without being logged in can’t see anyone’s private pictures, nor can they send you emails, IMs or winks.

So, let’s recap: search engines will never index our data (which never includes any personally-identifiable information anyway), members can opt out of this program with a single click and we’ve rolled out these changes incrementally to collect feedback from various test markets. We’re here 24/7/365 via phone and email to answer member questions and provide assistance in understanding and setting privacy options.

We’re disappointed that Queerty didn’t get all of their facts straight and we hope that this clears the air.

Thanks,

Adam Segel
Chief Executive Officer