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Cardinal Crush team clarifies inaccessible privacy policy, false affiliation with Behavior Design Lab

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The team behind Cardinal Crush, a form circulated before Valentine’s Day where students could list other students they had a “crush” on, emailed a statement to participants on Friday, clarifying its privacy policy and correcting the record on its affiliation with the Stanford Behavior Design Lab.

Cardinal Crush was advertised as a way to “research ways to better facilitate romantic interaction.” A form allowed participants to provide the names of up to seven of their crushes. If two people listed each other on the form, they received an email letting them know their crush had a crush on them in return.

In an email advertising the form to students on Feb. 11, the Cardinal Crush team claimed that there had been “over 1000 signups in the first 24 hours.”

“Many people miss out on people they’re interested in because it can be difficult to take the first step,” wrote the Cardinal Crush team in a statement to The Daily. “Cardinal Crush was born to really identify the various reasons why the first step is so difficult to take. The focus of the research is less on the matching itself, and more on the behaviors and anxieties behind ‘shooting your shot.’” 

Privacy concerns emerge

Some students expressed reservations about using the platform due to privacy concerns. 

“I am not 100% sure, but I don’t think there is a privacy policy,” said Amisha Iyer ’23, who did not participate in the form. “While they do say that they won’t be giving away your private information or they won’t be sharing it with these people, it is still not 100% confirmed because they don’t have a policy about it.”

In the initially circulated email, terms of participation were not linked, and privacy was not discussed, beyond a note in the email that all participant data would be “completely anonymous.” 

The Cardinal Crush team wrote in a statement to The Daily that all participant data would be protected and an algorithm would perform the matching. 

“We take data privacy and data protection extremely seriously, and are taking precautions to preserve privacy,” the team wrote. “An algorithm was made for the matching process, with oversight to confirm the matches. For further analysis, data will be completely anonymized and names removed.”

Team claims Behavior Design Lab affiliation

In the initial email, Cardinal Crush was described as a project “designed by members of the Stanford Behavior Design Lab.” In later correspondence with The Daily, emails from the Cardinal Crush team were signed “Stanford Behavior Design.” The team requested anonymity, citing the policy of the Stanford Behavior Design Lab to keep the researchers working on their project anonymous. 

Stanford Behavior Design Lab director B.J. Fogg and lead researcher Ari Qayumi ’20 both wrote in a statement to The Daily that Cardinal Crush was not a Behavior Design Lab project.

On Thursday evening, Qayumi told The Daily that the Cardinal Crush team planned to “issue an apology to their users for not providing an easily accessible privacy policy as well as an updated privacy policy for users within the next 12 hours,” as well as a statement “accepting responsibility for incorrectly associating their project with the Stanford Behavior Design Lab.”

On Feb. 21, following The Daily’s investigation into the origins of the project, the Cardinal Crush team sent an email to the participants clarifying its privacy policy and relationship to the Stanford Behavior Lab.

“Cardinal Crush was originally conceived in Autumn Quarter by lab participants in the Behavior Design Lab,” the team wrote. “However, this is not an official Behavior Design Lab Project and is not affiliated with the lab. We are grateful for the Stanford Daily to draw this to our attention.”

Students report mixed feedback

The Cardinal Crush team wrote that about 63% of respondents who had at least one crush fill out the form received a match, but did not disclose how many students participated in the project. 

Some students found the results to be underwhelming. 

“I honestly thought nothing [about the project],” said Maia Rocklin ’22. “No one really talked about it. I expected to see some posts on Cardinal Confessions or Missed Connections but I didn’t.”

Laura Gequelin ’23 embraced the idea of the project. 

“I thought the idea behind it was really interesting,” Gequelin said. “I don’t actually know anyone who ended up matching with a crush. I also think it pushes people to confront their own feelings and be more willing to put them out there, even if they don’t get a match.”

This article has been corrected to reflect that Ari Qayumi is a member of the Class of 2020, and that she is the lead researcher in the Stanford Behavior Design Lab. The Daily regrets this error.

Contact Anastasia Malenko at malenk0 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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