OkCupid claims that such experiments are necessary for testing out products and features. Testing and obtaining user feedback in an effort to improve a service is one matter, but outright lying is quite another. One example of the kind of experiment OkCupid ran on its users was to tell people they were good matches when in fact they weren’t, leading them to send more messages. This kind of deception bears a remarkable similarity to Facebook’s manipulation of user news feeds.
As with Facebook, OkCupid has significant clout due to the large number of people who use its service. OkCupid currently has an Alexa rank of 422, making it one of the top several hundred most visited and viewed sites in the world. The ranking includes all sites; not just dating sites. With this level of popularity, some might argue that it’s unsurprising privacy may not be the bottom line of such companies. For instance, OkCupid has been accused of selling its users’ data to advertising companies BlueKai and Lotame.
While this may well be true, I believe that a company, no matter how large, has a responsibility to be honest with its users and to protect their privacy, rather than to abuse their dominant market position to serve its own ends. Unfortunately, until users demonstrate to these companies that they care about their privacy, even to the point of boycotting the services of companies that cross the line, the situation is unlikely to change.