Facebook has been the subject of much criticism recently after it became known that back in 2012 the social network subjected some 700,000 users to an emotion manipulation study. Some users were only shown negative stories and some only positive to find out if this would have any affect on their own Facebook posts. Facebook says that this was done to research the behavior of its users and understand them better but most people are not buying this argument. The FTC has received a complaint from Electronic Privacy Information Center which seeks to have the world’s largest social network sanctioned for this study.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center also wants the FTC to force Facebook to make the algorithm public that controls what users see in their News Feeds. Facebook regularly tweaks its News Feed algorithm to ensure that users see the most relevant posts, it analyzes hundreds of data points to ascertain what could be of value. Its unlikely that Facebook would agree to bring out its core algorithm in full view of the public.
The privacy group says in its complaint that the social network “purposefully messed with people’s minds,” and that it did not have the users’ consent for their data to be used in this study. It said that at the time Facebook’s data-use policy didn’t state that user data would be used for research.
Facebook reiterates its stance that once users sign up for the service they agree to have their information be used “to provide and enhance the services we offer.” On the other hand the UK’s data regulator is looking into the study to ascertain if any user data has been misused in the study.
The social network tried to placate users as its COO Sheryl Sandberg apologized for the study but looks like people aren’t so quick to forgive and forget.