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Manhunt Policy Change Raises Questions Anew About Internet Privacy

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by Peter Cassels
EDGE Media Network Contributor


EDGE spoke with two New York City Manhunt members to learn how they like it and whether they have experienced any problems. To protect their privacy, EDGE used only their first names.

Monty moved to Brooklyn three months ago from the East Village and has been a member since the site's start-up. His experiences in meeting other members range from the positive to the downright nasty.

"I've met some of my best friends on Manhunt," he said.

Then he related what happened when he arranged a hook-up at his East Village apartment one night in 2007.

"The guy totally ripped me off," Monty recalled. "He walked out after I fell asleep. My keys, my wallet and lots of my possessions were gone."

Monty freaked out: "I started calling all over the place to find this guy. He strolled back in four hours later, saying he went to Splash [the Manhattan gay dance bar] and spent all my money. He gave me my keys, but when I asked him to return my money, he assaulted me."

The trick poked Monty's eye with his finger. "My eye almost came out. I chased him out of the building." Police who happened to be nearby arrested the guy.

News media have reported similar incidents when people arranged to meet escorts on Craigslist, which recently shut down its adult services section after a firestorm of criticism.

Craigslist's "men meeting men" section remains a place to arrange liaisons.

Monty said the two sites are similar: "I used to think people were on Manhunt for a purpose, but, like Craigslist, it's more to waste other people's time."

He believes Manhunt's new policy designed to attract more members "reinforces the idea that you should be careful with anything you post on the Internet. There are people out there who mean to do you harm."

Monty has had photos stolen from his profile even though he had locked them to prevent copying. In one instance, he recognized a picture of his torso on another member's profile. The clincher was that it was accompanied by the name of the photographer, a friend of his.

"I didn't unlock it for him," Monty reported. "He could have gotten it unlocked through another person's profile. You have to be careful about closing down your profile when you're getting ready to go offline. If you leave it on even briefly someone can get in there and wreak havoc."

Revealing HIV Status & Drug Use
Manhunt allows members to look for other members in a panoply of categories. Among them are location, age, body type, eye color, HIV status and what kind of sex they are into. Monty has concerns about some of them.

"I discourage anyone from posting their HIV status," he said, "especially if you're positive. That's information that people use to hurt others."

Monty believes discussing HIV status is best left to a one-on-one conversation: "It's easy to lie about it online but not so easy when you have to look someone in the eye and say 'I'm negative' when you're not."

He's also concerned about barebacking (unprotected sex), which he says members should say they are into before meeting. Not all do, he reported.

"Party and play," the euphemism for doing drugs such as crystal meth during sex that some Manhunt members include in their profiles, is dangerous for at least one reason. "I know first hand that police officers go undercover on Manhunt," Monty said. "People should know that."

A licensed massage therapist, he doesn't advertise his services on Manhunt. "I think it's in poor taste to do that," he said. "It's a site for pick-ups or finding friends and not a place to do business."

James, an attractive young man who lives in Manhattan, would disagree. He runs A-List New York City sex parties that he advertises on Manhunt. He joined the site eight years ago, but no longer has a personal account.

His ads get good results -- as one would expect, considering Manhunt's dominance of the category. But he also plugs his parties on Adam4Adam, another website that facilitates hook-ups. There, he can list events. "You can't do that on Manhunt," James explained. "You have to take out ads. I also get a lot of people by word of mouth."


Peter Cassels is a recipient of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association’s Excellence in Journalism award. His e-mail address is [email protected].


Comments

  • , 2010-11-22 10:02:39

    Where was Edge’s coverage when this topic was (barely) relevant months ago? Way to stay on the cutting edge of the internet privacy debate. But seriously, I don’t see how someone could be shocked that a photo of your junk might end up in someone else’s hands? Hasn’t this been a problem since the beginning of the Internet?


  • , 2010-11-22 10:09:26

    Ok, one last thing. Its poetic that in commenting on this article, I learn that the default setting for new accounts on Edge’s own site is to display your full name. Cheers guys.


  • , 2010-11-22 10:11:10

    I’m glad at least Edge values privacy enough to... oh, wait...


  • , 2011-09-27 20:23:37

    There’s another faster and easier way to connect with men. GuySpy is a gay dating app. Comes with great features like video. Good-bye lonely nights! Check it out http://www.guyspy.com


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