In the past few weeks, Facebook has consistently appeared on the headlines for tons of wrong reasons. For instance, just this past week, it happened that the news feeds of nearly a quarter million users were manipulated deliberately just to see what kind of reactions or moods such manipulation will provoke from these users. In the eyes of critics, such act is unethical at best, and completely unfair at worst. And, following this happenstance, the Office of the UK Information Commissioner announce its intention to investigate whether or not Facebook has violated data protection law.
Here’s a front page caption: Facebook in Privacy Shocker
This seems to be somewhat bigger compared to the normal “let us move the entire privacy settings and make your pictures public once again”modifies Facebook ‘likes’ to become ‘make’.
Is It Really So? What Happened Actually?
In 2012, the data scientists at Facebook meddled with nearly 690,000 users’ news feeds for a week on a stretch. This was done as part of a study carried out with the University of California and Cornell University. The effect of this alteration on users’ data was more negative contents being shown to users, while others were shown more positive contents.
Well, Doesn’t Social Networks and Sites Analyze Users Data at All Times?
Sure, such analysis takes place, which is what is known as A/B testing where two groups of users get different versions of your content in order to assess the more successful one. There is more, however: It was not as though Facebook was just observing users, they deliberately manipulated the data to see what emotions will come from these users.
So, What’s Bad about That?
The bad thing about the act is that people’s permission were not obtained before using them for this study. In the terms and conditions on Facebook, there is no indication of using users’ data at any point in time for studies. Well, that aspect was included in their terms and conditions after the deed was already done (the manipulation).
Arguably, this unauthorized use of people’s data by Facebook is also seen as irresponsible by some. Here’s the argument posed by people criticizing this act from Facebook; “Among the users whose news feeds became negative, how many of them are ascertained to be prone to mood swings?
Among the top critics of this Facebook act is the OpenNews content director who said this on Twitter, “Get yourself and your family off Facebook…this is awful!). Well, do you think this sounds more like a competitive attack?