OkCupid Brags About Experimenting on Users

The dating site thinks the controversy over Facebook’s manipulation of users’ emotions is overblown.

A view of a sculpture depicting Cupid and entitled 'L'amour Menacant' ('Menacing Love') by Etienne-Maurice Falconet at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam on December 21, 2012. 
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
July 28, 2014, 10:11 a.m.

Dat­ing web­site Ok­Cu­pid re­vealed Monday that it pur­pose­fully set up people with bad matches to test its own al­gorithm.

A sim­il­ar ex­per­i­ment landed Face­book at the cen­ter of a ma­jor con­tro­versy re­cently. Sen. Mark Warner and a pri­vacy group even asked the Fed­er­al Trade Com­mis­sion to in­vest­ig­ate wheth­er Face­book broke the law by ma­nip­u­lat­ing the con­tent in users’ news feeds to study how it af­fected their moods.

But Ok­Cu­pid ar­gues that neither site has any­thing to apo­lo­gize for.

“Most ideas are bad. Even good ideas could be bet­ter. Ex­per­i­ments are how you sort all this out,” Chris­ti­an Rud­der, one of the site’s founders, wrote in a blog post.

He said any­one who uses the In­ter­net is “the sub­ject of hun­dreds of ex­per­i­ments at any giv­en time, on every site.”

To test how re­li­able its own al­gorithm was, Ok­Cu­pid told cer­tain people they would be a good match for each oth­er even when the al­gorithm ac­tu­ally in­dic­ated they would be a bad match.

People were more likely to mes­sage back and forth with bad matches if the site told them they would be good matches, Ok­Cu­pid found.

But a sus­tained con­ver­sa­tion was most likely if people were told they were a good match and ac­tu­ally were. Rud­der said the ex­per­i­ment showed that Ok­Cu­pid’s al­gorithm ac­tu­ally works.

The com­pany also re­vealed less-con­tro­ver­sial stud­ies show­ing how im­port­ant pho­tos are on the site.

Justin Brook­man, the dir­ect­or of con­sumer pri­vacy for the Cen­ter for Demo­cracy and Tech­no­logy, ap­plauded Ok­Cu­pid for provid­ing more trans­par­ency about how it ex­per­i­ments on users.

But he ac­know­ledged that some people may feel misled be­cause they trus­ted the site to provide ac­cur­ate in­form­a­tion.

“There are some real eth­ic­al ques­tions,” Brook­man said, ar­guing that web­sites and poli­cy­makers should think more about where to draw the line between use­ful in­tern­al test­ing and de­cept­ive busi­ness prac­tices.

What We're Following See More »
PROCEDURES NOT FOLLOWED
Trump Not on Ballot in Minnesota
2 days ago
THE LATEST
MOB RULE?
Trump on Immigration: ‘I Don’t Know, You Tell Me’
2 days ago
THE LATEST

Perhaps Donald Trump can take a plebiscite to solve this whole messy immigration thing. At a Fox News town hall with Sean Hannity last night, Trump essentially admitted he's "stumped," turning to the audience and asking: “Can we go through a process or do you think they have to get out? Tell me, I mean, I don’t know, you tell me.”

Source:
BIG CHANGE FROM WHEN HE SELF-FINANCED
Trump Enriching His Businesses with Donor Money
4 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign." A campaign spokesman "said the increased office space was needed to accommodate an anticipated increase in employees," but the campaign's paid staff has actually dipped by about 25 since March. The campaign has also paid his golf courses and restaurants about $260,000 since mid-May.

Source:
QUESTIONS OVER IMMIGRATION POLICY
Trump Cancels Rallies
4 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump probably isn't taking seriously John Oliver's suggestion that he quit the race. But he has canceled or rescheduled rallies amid questions over his stance on immigration. Trump rescheduled a speech on the topic that he was set to give later this week. Plus, he's also nixed planned rallies in Oregon and Las Vegas this month.

Source:
‘STRATEGY AND MESSAGING’
Sean Hannity Is Also Advising Trump
5 days ago
THE LATEST

Donald Trump's Fox News brain trust keeps growing. After it was revealed that former Fox chief Roger Ailes is informally advising Trump on debate preparation, host Sean Hannity admitted over the weekend that he's also advising Trump on "strategy and messaging." He told the New York Times: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. I never claimed to be a journalist.”

Source:
×