The recent revelation that Facebook used mild emotional manipulation on 689,000 of its users has left users all over the globe angry and UK regulators unimpressed.
The controversial experiment, which took place in 2012 without users’ express consent, is set to be investigated by the Information Commissioner’s Office, the body responsible for the enforcement of the UK’s Data Protection Act. Thus far, no US counterpart has announced any plans to investigate, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s on the horizon.
Although perfectly legal, news of the experiment has ruffled many a feather. It involved measuring users’ emotional responses by deliberately manipulating their news feeds to depict either predominantly ‘negative’ or ‘positive’ posts, using software which identified certain keywords associated with each. Those bombarded with ‘positive’ posts indeed responded by writing happy statuses that reflected this, and vice versa, which is hardly surprising, right?
The investigative body plans to find out whether user anonymity was waived during the experiment, and whether any of its ‘guinea pigs’ were UK citizens. Should the results come back in the affirmative, this could be a violation of UK law and the social network could face a hefty fine (up to $850,000, apparently) and be forced to change its policies too.
So is this a gross abuse of privacy, or simply part of what we sign up for when we use sell our souls to the social network? Let us know how you reacted to the news in the comments below!
Image via Sebastien Wiertz