OKCupid, an online dating site owned by IAC recently revealed that they have manipulated users for their research study. According to the company, they influenced users to look at the photo of their supposedly compatible mates, and this prompted a higher chance of an online conversation of up to 17%.
Other experiments also included hiding the profile text of users to see how this would affect personality ratings, and telling daters that they were the top or last potential match for a specific individual despite the fact that this was not the result determined by the software.
These supposed experiments for their research study prompted several negative responses from OKCupid users as they felt that they were treated as “lab rats” due to this manipulation. Though, it’s the case, and such type of data mining was already part of the terms and conditions for the dating website hence no legal boundaries were crossed.
Facebook, one of the top social networking sites also admitted to a similar type of data gathering for their research study. There were reports stating that Facebook had manipulated the News feed of their users in order to gauge their reaction to the content that they are reading in their account. Another example was the social experiment done during the elections in America where everyone was reminded to exercise their right to vote. This resulted to a rise of people participating in the election.
These experiments conducted by OKCupid and Facebook were done without consent of participants regarding their participation in the research study. Some people are offended by such type of practice especially to sites that they frequently visit, but these sites have a different take for this subject.
Christian Rudder, one of the founders of OKCupid, says that users should not feel manipulated in this type of situation as they should be aware of the consequences of being online. He also added in his statement that “if you use the Internet, you’re the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site.” As more and more people are using the internet for their personal needs, researchers are also viewing it as a convenient and guaranteed way of gathering data and using it for their researches.