LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — In the wake of all the backlash directed at Facebook for manipulating users’ data, dating website OK Cupid has just admitted to doing the same thing.
OK Cupid conducted a social experiment to see if telling people falsely that they’re compatible was a good way to get them to converse more online. Apparently, it was.
“The mere myth of compatibility works just as well as the truth,” Christian Rudder, co-founder of the online dating site, said in a blog post about the study.
Facebook organized a test of their own by altering certain users’ news feeds so there was a slant towards posts with either a positive or negative message. They wanted to see if users’ status updates were influenced by the mood of posts streaming through their feed. They found that users who see more negative content are more likely to produce negative content of their own.
Users claim these sites are playing with their emotions without their permission.
“I’m not comfortable with somebody intruding in an area I’m not aware of,” social media user Christine Clark said.
Experts say what these companies are doing is not illegal. But does it cross an ethical line?
Facebook employees can manipulate users’ data because users agree to the company’s data-use policy, according to Todd Plesco, who directs information security at Chapman University.
“Meaning, whatever data I give to you, you can do whatever you want with it,” Plesco said.
He said “it’s simple marketing” and that users shouldn’t be surprised they’re being watched.
The same thing is true of OK Cupid. Plesco said when it comes to going online we are all guinea pigs for marketers.
“Deceptive trade practices are everywhere,” he said.
For those looking to protect their privacy, Plesco recommends going to ixquick.com. Or using a browser add-on such as “Do Not Track Me,” which you can download online, and serves to block all cookies from being saved in your browser.