OkCupid Experiments

OkCupid Experiments

It’s common knowledge that websites monitor users’ activities, especially when they relate to social media. Facebook was recently in the news for manipulating users’ emotions for scientific purposes, but they are not alone. Dating website OkCupid announced this week that they too experiment on their users—and their CEO Christian Rudder thinks that everyone should just deal with it.

In his latest blog post titled, “We Experiment on Human Beings,” Rudder notes that this (semi) clandestine behavior should not be shocking, nor should it be secretive, nor should it worry people.

“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,” he wrote.

OkCupid’s privacy policy explicitly states that they conduct research using site activity to gauge performance, but it’s a safe bet that very few users actually read the policy, so his post was far from fruitless. But Rudder wanted to get the word out as a way to support Facebook and help people understand that this is common practice and not unethical.

OkCupid wanted to know if their matching algorithms worked, so they purposely matched users who came up as incompatible (and vice versa). Those who were told they had a 90% compatibility rate (when it was only 30%) would most likely message each other, and 17% of the time they would continue an ongoing conversation. According to OKCupid’s findings, users were making love connections because the site told them they would.

On the flip side, users who were told they were incompatible still found each other, and 20% kept talking. This means users relied on chemistry instead of data when making connections. Basically, OkCupid’s findings crossed each other out.

Thankfully they emailed all research “participants” to let them know that a diagnostic test had caused a misstatement of compatibility rates – and the correct numbers were given. Rudder said the words “diagnostic test” were used because they weren’t as harsh as “experiment,” but the meanings were the same.