How Does OkCupid's Real Name Policy Affect Your Privacy? Recently, online dating service OkCupid announced a change to its username policy which will force users to ditch their pseudonymous screen names and instead use real names on their profiles. Looking at the comments of the official OkCupid post (please note that the post contains explicit language), a number of users are understandably upset over this change because they’re afraid that attaching their real name to an online dating profile will compromise their safety and security. If you’re an OkCupid user or a concerned consumer, read on to learn more about the hazards the new name policy poses, and what you can do to protect your privacy.

OkCupid’s new name policy

Up until this point, OkCupid has let people use letters, numbers and symbols to craft pretty much any username they like (e.g., hockey_girl2000 or iHeartLibraries). Going forward, though, the company wants users to go by a real first name consisting only of letters, such as Bob or Alice, meaning that existing users will have to pick a new name to conform to this policy. However, OkCupid has clarified that your new profile name doesn’t have to be your legal name, and if you use a nickname or your initials instead, that’s fine. It has also stated that it won’t be collecting and storing full names, which is a relief considering the growing number of online service data breaches we’ve seen in recent years.

Your real name is sensitive information

Associating your real name with your OkCupid profile is risky, as it makes it much easier for someone to trace that profile to your other social media accounts, or to your real identity. Combine that with the fact that OkCupid encourages users to write extensive personal descriptions and take quizzes on sensitive topics such as sexual history and political views to increase their match chances, and you have the potential for a serious privacy threat.

Using your real name on OkCupid could increase your chances of being cyberstalked or harassed through multiple platforms, as a spiteful match that you’ve blocked on OkCupid could take their trolling to another one of your profiles, such as your Facebook account. It could also make you more vulnerable to online dating scams, as scammers can use personal information they gather on OkCupid to socially engineer you on other platforms, or vice versa. The danger of having your real identity uncovered is particularly serious for people who do not want to reveal their sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship preferences publicly, as they run the risk of being outed or blackmailed. Consider the consequences suffered by many of those exposed in the aftermath of several high-profile adult website data breaches.

To be fair, there has always been a danger of having your real identity uncovered on OkCupid (or any other dating site with a similarly open design). If your screen name included your first name, last name or initials, like 42% of OkCupid screen names did in 2015, that still gave cyberstalkers clues to find more information on you. Additionally, people could use Google’s search by image feature on your profile pictures to find other social media accounts, some of which may display your full real name, on which you’ve uploaded the same images. However, OkCupid’s real name policy probably heightens that danger.

How to stay safe

The key to preserving your OkCupid anonymity is to utilize the small amount of wiggle room in the real name policy. The “real name” you use on OkCupid can be a variation of your legal name that you don’t commonly go by. For instance, if your name is Elizabeth, and you normally go by Eliza, you could put your name down as Ellie to make it harder for people to search for your other social media accounts. If your name is more unique, you could also shorten your screen name into a nickname, as OkCupid has stated that it will not use an external service to verify your name’s accuracy. As an example, if your screen name is GrizzlyBear86, you could put your real name as just Griz.

As an extra precaution, you may also want to make sure your profile pictures are unique to your OkCupid account, and don’t appear on any social media account associated with your full, real name. Even if you take care to make sure your profile name and personal descriptions don’t contain any details that can be traced back to you, a successful Google image search can undo that work. Once you’ve secured your profile, test it with a few Google searches of your profile name and photos to make sure they don’t easily lead to your real identity. Also, note that there are some additional security features you can take advantage of — such as making it so only OkCupid members, not just visitors to the site, can view your profile and opting out of connecting your Instagram feed to your profile.

If the new name policy makes you want to ditch OkCupid altogether, there are a number of other online dating services you can try. While newer ones like Tinder connect to your Facebook account to display your real name, Match will still let you make up your own screen name. For more on how to be safe and successful in the world of online dating, follow our online dating blog.