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NEWS29 July 2014

OkCupid admits to ‘experimentation’

News North America Privacy

US — Dating website OkCupid has openly admitted to conducting experiments on its members without their knowledge.

One of the site’s founders, Christian Rudder, wrote a candid company blog post on Monday, explaining that the site’s engineers will often play with users’ accounts to work out the best way to construct the site. This has included hiding text from users’ dating profiles and giving false ‘compatibility’ scores.

“We noticed recently that people didn’t like it when Facebook ‘experimented’ with their news feed,” wrote Rudder. “But guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site. That’s how websites work.”

According to an article in the Huffington Post, the admission has been met with anger on social media.

This follows Facebook’s admission last month that it had conducted experiments on its users by manipulating their newsfeeds without their knowledge, claiming that it had permission to do so via the terms and conditions that users had signed up to when joining the site. It was later suggested that Facebook had updated the terms and conditions to include research four months after the study had been conducted. The issue has since been referred to the ICO and FTC.

@RESEARCH LIVE

1 Comment

5 years ago

Well, I think I kind of agree with Rudder on this one. When we sign up to a website (or buy just about any product), we don't really know what we're getting until we get it. If the mfr modifies the product over time (which is a pre-post experimental design), no-one gets much excited. The excitement that is aroused is the public phobia of being 'manipulated' without their knowledge - which is more psuedo-science than reality. Perhaps we're a victim of the marketing spiel which James Vicary began back in the '50s with false claims of subliminal advertising - primarily to win marketing consulting business! Although that thought perpetuates the myth that marketing is an all-powerful manipulator. So maybe what it really is is just a deep false fear that is in people out there. Marketers do tweak products - if they call it an experiment, they're in trouble. If they do it over time (and neglect to call it an experiment), they're fine!!

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