OkCupid Experiments on their Users

Many of the information people post on their social networking websites are surprisingly private information. If I “stalk” a person with a Facebook or Instagram account, I could find out more about them than what their parents may know.

This phenomenon of opening up the private space to the public is becoming more common than ever. And often, social networking website use their user’s information to customize their settings to fit an individual’s interests and needs. However, is it okay for companies to use private information to do social experiment without their users’ consent?

Last week, OKCupid, a widely used online dating website, published an article on their blog page titled, “We Experiment on Human Beings!” They confessed that they tweaked people’s match percentages, profile pictures, etc. The results were interesting and provided a different perspective on the online dating culture. I personally have not yet affiliated myself with online dating, but if I found out I was one of OkCupid’s rats they experimented on, I would not be pleased. Especially if some of the matches they suggested was a horrible dates.

In class, online dating was mentioned by one of my classmates when we talked about “media scares.” This method of forming romantic relationships is very different from what earlier generations would consider a date. However, this blog allowed me to think about the frightening fact that a corporation knows more about you than you, and they have the power to tweak the information you provide for their advantage. A couple of months ago, Facebook also had an issue with manipulating their user’s Newsfeeds.

Habermas mentions that in order to have “private sphere”, the “public sphere” must first exist. But is it possible for Habermas’ “private sphere” to fade away? Also, if you were one of those people who were experimented by OkCupid, would you be outraged or casually accept what they did? Would you react differently if it were Facebook or Twitter?