It was reported earlier in the week that back in 2012 Facebook subjected 689,000 of its users to a secret emotion manipulation experiment. The social network identified posts that these users might consider positive and negative and separated them into two categories. Some were only shown negative posts whereas the rest were shown positive posts. Facebook has been criticised a lot for this and now it may even face an investigation by a UK regulator which aims to see if Facebook broke any data protection laws during the experiment.
What the experiment ultimately showed was that emotions could be “contagious.” Those who were shown negative posts largely ended up posting negative statuses of their own, a completely opposite reaction was seen from people who were shown positive posts for an entire week.
A couple of days after this experiment was brought to light Facebook released a statement detailing its reasoning for manipulating users’ emotions. It said that all this was done to simply understand users better, and that its goal was “never to upset anyone.”
The Financial Times is now reporting that UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office, the country’s data regulator, is likely to investigate if Facebook infringed any data protection laws during this experiment. It will see if consent was given by users and exactly how much personal data was used to get the results required.
Even though what it did might be legal under the Terms and Conditions all Facebook users have to agree to before they can use the service, users would probably not want to have their emotions manipulated. Do you think what the company did was ethical or was it okay since it was done in the name of research?
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