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In their experiment, OKCupid randomly selected some of its users to see a very high match percentage (90%) when, in reality, their actual match was much lower (30%).Importantly, OKCupid users had no idea that the match % they saw was actually fake.Some people claim that the Facebook study probably would have passed IRB approval at a university if it were held to the same standards.Facebook also has its own “internal review process” (their words), but we don’t know if this is similar to university IRBs.This lack of a rigorous ethics board has caused much outcry from academic researchers who do similar studies.However, it is also worth mentioning that there are no universal standards for ethics boards internationally, or even in America.Before most experiments begin, participants are explicitly told that they are volunteering to participate in a study, and they are told what procedures will be used.Then participants can decide whether or not they want to continue with the study, and know they can quit any time without penalty if they feel uncomfortable.
What this means is that ethical standards for risk of harm to participants are very subjective.
Participants are also told about the potential risks and benefits if they choose to participate, and participants sign a form indicating that they understand all of this information about the study. But sometimes researchers will use deception, when necessary, which is an official scientific term to denote when researchers do not fully describe the purpose of the study before it begins.
In such studies, participants are not informed about the nature of the study until afterwards.
OKCupid ordinarily uses a matching algorithm to give people a sense for how much they have in common with other users.
The match % you see with other users indicates the percentage of questions that you agreed on (the higher the %, the more you agree on OKCupid’s questions; see more about how they calculate match % here).