Oh boy. First Facebook experimented on its users without their knowledge, and now the dating site OkCupid admits to doing the same.
In a brazen blog post, founder Christian Rudder held nothing back. "Guess what, everybody: if you use the Internet, you're the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site," he wrote. "That's how websites work."
OkCupid conducted not one but three different experiments. In two instances, the dating app removed photos and text from profiles to see how people responded to matches with certain information missing. The experiment that's causing more controversy, however, is the one in which OkCupid told pairs of bad matches (with a 30 percent match) that, instead, "they were exceptionally good for each other" and had 90 percent match — just to see how much users are really influenced by the statistics they are given.
Salon technology reporter Andrew Leonard weighed in, writing, "There's a big different between straightforward A/B testing — presenting two different versions of a site to different groups of users in order to see what works better — and consciously presenting false information or otherwise skewing emotionally laden data. One is completely acceptable tinkering designed to improve usability, while the other is irresponsible behavior that treats human beings like lab rats and their emotions as play toys."
You can read more about all the experiments here. What do you think? Harmless or horrible?