Controversy Over Facebook Emotional Manipulation Study Grows Reply

FBControversy Over Facebook Emotional Manipulation Study Grows As Timeline Becomes More Clear

Gregory S. McNeal, Forbes

In a controversial study Facebook reported the results of a massive psychological experiment on 689,003 users.  The authors were able to conduct the research because in their words, automated testing “was consistent with Facebook’s Data Use Policy, to which all users agree prior to creating an account on Facebook, constituting informed consent for this research.

Most of us who covered the story relied on that statement from the academic journal for evidence of Facebook’s efforts to gain informed consent.  Well, it turns out that was wrong.

My colleague Kashmir Hill just reported that Facebook conducted their news feed manipulation four months before the term “research” was added to their data use policy, she writes:

However, we were all relying on what Facebook’s data policy says now. In January 2012, the policy did not say anything about users potentially being guinea pigs made to have a crappy day for science, nor that “research” is something that might happen on the platform.

Four months after this study happened, in May 2012, Facebook made changes to its data use policy, and that’s when it introduced this line about how it might use your information: “For internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.” Facebook helpfully posted a “red-line” version of the new policy, contrasting it with the prior version from September 2011— which did not mention anything about user information being used in “research.”

Kashmir’s story is worth reading in full, along with her earlier piece that digs deeper into the ethical and institutional review board issues, including a statement from Cornell “saying its IRB passed on reviewing the study because the part involving actual humans was done by Facebook not by the Cornell researcher involved in the study.”

Facebook seems nonplussed, releasing a statement saying ”To suggest we conducted any corporate research without permission is complete fiction. Companies that want to improve their services use the information their customers provide, whether or not their privacy policy uses the word ‘research’ or not.”

As Dan Solove points out in a recent LinkedIn Influencer post:

The problem with obtaining consent in this way is that people often rarely read the privacy policies or terms of use of a website. It is a pure fiction that a person really “agrees” with a policy such as this, yet we use this fiction all the time…

Article continues here:  Facebook Manipulation

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