When Martin Dumas signed up for the dating site love2meet.com, he had no idea he would also be signed up for Senior Dating Canada.
“I guess it comes from another site that I used,” Dumas said in an interview with CBC News from his Montreal office.
He learned this after a CBC News investigation revealed his profile and picture were posted on at least four other sites without his knowledge.
All of the sites belong to Global Personals, a company based in England. Its website boasts more than 13,000 internet dating sites around the globe and at least 30 million customers.
'Every website to meet people is not necessarily a unique entity.' - Martin Dumas, who tried online dating
Dumas is not the only Global Personals customer who got more exposure than they bargained for. CBC News found others who were surprised to learn their profiles were on several of the company’s dating sites.
Karen (not her real name) signed up for a seniors' dating site this past summer. The recent widow decided within days that internet dating was not for her.
She thought she unsubscribed, but now she isn't so sure.
One thing she is sure of is she did not join these three sites: loveandadore.com, cupids.net and toyboy.com.
Toyboy.com touts itself as “the essential dating site for successful ladies and young men.”
It goes on to explain how the relationships work. “Sometimes referred to as cougars but not in a derogatory way, they are older women (over 40) who specifically look to date younger men. It may be for purely sexual reasons or just that they prefer younger men but cougars are put in the power roll (sic).”
'It's an outrage'
“It’s not pleasant. You are kind of being exploited,” Karen told CBC News after she found out she was on the other sites. “It’s an outrage that they do that.”
Then there is Bonnie (not her real name). She signed up for the site Widows or Widowers, never knowing she would end up on sites she never signed up for and never heard of. She too is listed on Toyboy.com.
“If people are surprised by the fact that the info is being shared, one has to question whether they made an informed choice,” said Brian Bowman, a Winnipeg lawyer who specializes in privacy.
You do not need to look at the terms to join, but when you do, it says: “By registering with the site you acknowledge and accept that all content that you post to the site may be searchable and available to users of the service who access it via different web sites from the site.”
None of the people who spoke to CBC News knew that joining one could mean having their profile up on many sites.
Global Personals said it operates a "shared database" that "increases the members' chances of finding a suitable partner."
The Canadian Privacy Commissioner would not comment on specific concerns involving Global Personals as the office had not independently investigated. However, two different online dating sites have faced investigations where issues were identified.
The commissioner concluded that one company wasn't being transparent enough with customers.
"Troubling given the extremely sensitive nature of the information the site was collecting," the commissioner said in an email to CBC.
Another investigation found a dating site failed to fully delete a woman's account after she asked to be removed from the site. In that case, the commissioner concluded the site should make it easy for users to fully delete an account.
Although Dumas did not know he was on other sites, he is not surprised a company would post his profile without his knowledge.
“Every website to meet people is not necessarily a unique entity,” said Dumas.
Now, he remains suspicious of all online dating sites.
"It does not surprise me that people are using your information on those sites and trying to grab your credit card in the end," he said.
Out with the new, in with the old?
Some people have ditched online dating to meet people the old fashioned way: face to face.
Members of the singles group, Adventures for Successful Singles, meet at Flea Whiskeys and other spots around Winnipeg to hang out and mingle.
"Well, you see what you're getting for starters, as opposed to a high school picture that's been doctored for 20 years," said Cam Chase, who's been with the group for one year.
Carl Chambers is a new member and says he has other motives for avoiding the online dating scene.
"I work on a computer all day at work and the last thing I want to do on my leisure time is more emails or read," Chambers said.
Ray Antymis founded the group 30 years ago. Since then, he's been screening every member.
"It's important to get a feel for that individual and of course, there is an application form to fill out," Antymis said, "After we discuss what they have to offer, it's important to prove one's 'singleness.' That is paramount."
When CBC News revealed the findings of our investigation to members of the group, they were not impressed.
Cam Chase said he feels especially sympathetic towards the widow who wound up with a profile on Toyboy.com.
"I hope she's got a good sense of humour because otherwise I could see how she might be quite angry," he said.
Ray Antymis said he's been approached to give up a list of clients and he's refused. He's shocked by news of the I-team's story.
"I think that is awful. If they paid whatever money they paid for the one site, that should be where they should be," he said.
Check out these online dating stories: