Latest posts by Alvin Bryan (see all)
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Facebook has finally issued an apology for the mood experiment they conducted on users in 2011. They have explained why they did it and how they will do it in the future. What’s lacking is informed consent.
Facebook Apologizes But Will Not Ask Permission
The emotion experiment, which many opposed, affected almost a million Facebook users in 2011. These users were not informed, and they found out about it only after Facebook published the results in June this year. The company was shocked at the outrage that the mood experiment caused among Facebook users and privacy enthusiasts. Hundreds of thousands called the experiment an abuse of Facebook user data. A petition run by non-profit advocacy group Fight for the Future garnered over 140,000 signatures. The group hopes that Facebook will keep to its word about transparency. They are also continuing to advocate for greater privacy, including allowing users to make informed choices about their data. Meantime, those who are still on the site can tweak their settings to get better privacy as tracking activities continue.
The apology, issued on October 2, came from Mike Schroepfer, the CTO of Facebook. Many were hoping to hear from Zuckerberg, alas, a company representative will have to suffice. The apology was posted in the Facebook newsroom and not as publicly as many would have liked, but again it is better than nothing. Schroepfer assured users that the company wants to conduct research in “the most responsible way”. This includes changing its methods, including using non-experimental approaches and explaining the objectives. Facebook promises to give researchers guidelines, but says nothing about asking site users if they want to participate in any future experiments. The company has long maintained that user data can be used by the company, as clearly stated in their terms of service, and that Facebook users have no real expectation of privacy. They will not ask users for their permission for any research projects, but at least they now know what to expect.