When people associate online dating and dishonesty, they usually think of singles downplaying their weight, age or number of divorces. Now, however, it's not the users being dishonest, it's the website.
Dating site OkCupid is under fire after one of its co-founders freely admitted to conducting a number of social experiments on users, including altering match results to test reactions.
Some people are blasting the site's tinkering as "emotionally manipulative."
"They did things like remove text from user profiles or remove photos," said Cory Johnson, a social media and tech reporter for Bloomberg TV, in an interview on "CBS This Morning." "They even told people whose compatibility score was quite low, around 30 percent, that they were 90 percenters. And what they found was that when they did this, people used the service more, they exchanged more messages, they tried to get more dates."
Johnson said OkCupid was running the tests to improve their site.
"They said they were doing it to figure out what works better on their site, and to know more about how OkCupid works with its users," Johnson said.
While their heart may have been in the right place, Johnson thinks OkCupid was too quick to manipulate data. Considering this is a dating site, he said the stakes are higher.
"There's a big uproar over this," Johnson said. "There's a sense of betrayal. Because this isn't just amazon.com telling you you're going to really like a sneaker or a book because of something else you did. This is about sex, this is about dating."
OkCupid's controversy comes just weeks after Facebook admitted to manipulating their site in the name of science. Johnson said if companies continue tampering with their users, the users will continue fighting back.
"When we hear about how we live in an era where companies want to get closer to their customers, this is the other side of that, where customers feel like they own their personal data," Johnson said. "Companies need to tread more lightly."