European agencies start questioning Facebook about its emotion study03/07/2014 18:58
European agencies are starting to question the effect Facebook’s psychological experiment might have had on consumer privacy following an intense backlash over the study, which did not seek consent from the nearly 700,000 unwitting participants. The agencies told The New York Times they have not started an official investigation.
Pando’s David Holmes wrote about the unethical — and disturbing — aspects of the study after it was first published. In addition to describing the contempt Facebook has for its 1.2 billion users, Holmes considered the real-world effect these social experiments could have on people:
With over one-tenth of the world’s population signing into Facebook every day, and now with evidence to back the emotional power of the company’s algorithmic manipulation, the possibilities for widespread social engineering are staggering and unlike anything the world has seen. Granted, Facebook’s motives probably are simply to convince people to buy more stuff in order to please advertisers, but the potential uses of that power to impact elections or global trade could be enticing to all sorts of powerful interest groups.
The response to this study has only gotten worse. Researchers, including one who edited the study, said that it might have been unethical. The Wall Street Journal revealed that Facebook didn’t exclude users under the age of 18 from the experiment. The New York Times published an op-ed in which the experiment was compared to a drug company fiddling with its product. Our ignorance was Facebook’s bliss, but now we’re learning more about the experiment every day.