Earlier this year Facebook brought results of a study it conducted back in 2011 to light. In this study the social network manipulated News Feeds of more than one million people to see how their behavior on the site was affected by positive or negative posts. Granted that it was a small sample of Facebook’s billion plus users but nevertheless there was significant criticism from users and privacy advocates alike since Facebook had never sought any permission. In a blogpost penned by its CTO Mike Schroepfer today Facebook has finally apologized.
Schroepfer writes that its clear to the company now that “there are things we should have done differently.” It could have considered non-experimental ways of conducting this research so that users may not have felt bad about being used for an experiment without having any knowledge whatsoever.
He also revealed that going forward Facebook is going to change the way it conducts research. There will be an “enhanced review process” before research is allowed to begin with double check and balance measures in place for research on topics believed to be “deeply personal.”
Facebook will now be listing all of its academic research in one location and will now add research education to the training bootcamp that new engineers go through for six weeks. The social network will also set up a panel that includes lawyers, engineers, members from its privacy and policy teams as well as senior researchers for review.
It can’t reverse what has already happened but at least now users would be more at peace, knowing that they won’t unwillingly become part of some experiment.
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