OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

SAN FRANCISCO
Mon Jul 28, 2014 6:47pm EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on Monday, weeks after Facebook Inc admitted to misleading users in a psychological study. 

“When we tell people they are a good match, they act as if they are,” co-founder Christian Rudder wrote in a blog post. “Even when they should be wrong for each other.”

Conversely, couples told they were bad matches, even when OkCupid’s algorithm showed the opposite, were less likely to exchange four messages. Exchanging four messages is an OkCupid measure for gauging romantic interest.

In the post, titled “We Experiment on Human Beings!” Rudder explained the tests helped the company refine its product. He did not respond to an email asking how many users were tested.

“Most ideas are bad,” he wrote. “Even good ideas could be better. Experiments are how you sort all this out.”

An IAC spokeswoman said OkCupid planned to continue with the experiments, which are known in the business as A/B testing.

But experimenting on users without their consent could cost the company credibility, said Irina Raicu, director of the Internet ethics program at Santa Clara University.