Defending Facebook, OkCupid says it also runs user-behavior tests

Studies like Facebook's are necessary for product testing, the dating site said

OkCupid's landing page, pictured July 28, 2014.
OkCupid's landing page, pictured July 28, 2014.
  • OkCupid's landing page, pictured July 28, 2014.
  • OkCupid's landing page.
View all images

Facebook sparked criticism over a study in which it manipulated the feeds of some of its users, but the dating site OkCupid says what Facebook did is normal, and that in fact it has run its own user-behavior tests.

In 2012, Facebook altered the amount of positive and negative content in users' feeds, to see the impact of the posts on their mood. The feeds of less than 700,000 users out of Facebook's 1.32 billion total were altered. The ethics of the study were called into question, with one U.S. senator calling on the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the study violated Facebook's policies and FTC laws around "unfair or deceptive acts or practices."

The dating site OkCupid, however, says experiments like Facebook's are necessary for testing features and products, and for making websites better.

"Guess what everybody: If you use the Internet, you're the subject of hundreds of experiments at any given time, on every site," OkCupid said in a blog post on Monday. "That's how Web sites work."

OkCupid uses an algorithm to show users other people the site thinks would make good matches, partly using a questionnaire.

The company has run its own experiments, such as when it removed users' photos from their profiles, or told people they were good matches when the algorithm said otherwise. Not surprisingly, people sent more messages when OkCupid told them they were compatible, the company said.

OkCupid terms of use are broad. The information the site collects about its users may be used to "perform research and analysis about your use of, or interest in, our products, services, or content, or products, services or content offered by others," the company says in its terms.

Facebook, meanwhile, constantly tweaks its algorithms to determine what posts to show to users and when. Part of the controversy over Facebook's study though, was whether Facebook was being sneaky in how it did it.

Facebook's terms, though few may read them, are also broad. Users' information may be used "for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement."

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Why defining brand strategy is vital to capitalising on quick wins

Big brands were once protected from small brands by high barriers to entry. Big brands had the resources to employ big agencies, to crack big ideas and to invest in big campaigns. They had the luxury of time to debate strategies and work on long-term innovation pipelines. Retailers used to partner with big brands.

Troy McKinnna

Co-founder, Agents of Spring, Calm & Stormy

3 ways to leverage the talents of your team to avoid disruption

​According to the World Economic Forum in its most recent The Future of Jobs report, the most important skills for the future are not technical, task-oriented skills, but higher-order skills such as creativity, social influence, active learning, and analytical thinking.

Gihan Perera

Futurist, leadership consultant

CMOs, it’s time to stop squandering customer attention

Businesses continue to highly value the attention they buy through paid media, yet at the same time, many continue to disregard and under-value opportunities to connect with customers using their owned media.

Well written Vanessa!! Agreed with your view that human experience is marketing's next frontier. Those businesses who are focused on the ...

Clyde Griffith

Forget customer experience, human experience is marketing's next frontier

Read more

Great tips for tops skills need to develop and stay competitive

Nick

The top skills needed to stay competitive in a rapidly changing workforce

Read more

The popularity of loyalty programs is diminishing, though I'd say it is because customers are savvy enough to recognise when a loyalty pr...

Heather

It’s time for marketers to rethink their approach to ‘loyalty’

Read more

Thanks Nadia for sharing this blog. It has really useful and amazing information about Salesforce Commerce Cloud and digital engagement w...

Holly Smith

Adidas taps data and technology smarts to build personalised digital engagement with consumers

Read more

clearly someone who's jealous and only comments from the safety of being behind their keyboard

Peter Sibson

The purpose of purpose - Brand science - CMO Australia

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in