Facebook Used Members in a Secret Psychological Test as Guinea Pigs
So what’s Facebook up to now? Well, it was recently revealed that Facebook conducted a secret emotional psychological test in 2012 on 700,000 of its own members. This comes after years of privacy concerns, FTC privacy lawsuit settlement and ongoing criticism of lack of security on Facebook. If you recall, even Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s fan page was hacked.
In this latest episode, Facebook was accused and has admitted of using its own members as test subjects for a secret psychological test. According to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg told reporters “This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was.” and was “poorly communicated.” Here’s what The Wall Street Journal reported:
“The experiment was the work of Facebook’s Data Science team, a group of about three dozen researchers with unique access to one of the world’s richest data troves: the movements, musings and emotions of Facebook’s 1.3 billion users.
The little-known group was thrust into the spotlight this week by reports about a 2012 experiment in which the news feeds of nearly 700,000 Facebook users were manipulated to show more positive or negative posts. The study found that users who saw more positive content were more likely to write positive posts, and vice versa.”
Facebook issued a mea culpa through its COO. According to CNET: Facebook’s Sandberg: We ‘really regret’ our secret-test misfire. The article has some interesting background on how this secret test came about and what the Facebook researcher who was in charge of the testing program had to say.
“In January 2012, researchers from Facebook, Cornell University, and the University of California at San Francisco conducted a study called “Experimental Evidence of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks.” During the course of the study, without publicly disclosing what it was up to, Facebook altered the News Feeds of 689,003 random users to show either more positive or more negative posts — and thus possibly altered their emotional states, with the goal of finding out whether good vibes or bad would be contagious.
“I can understand why some people have concerns about it, and my coauthors and I are very sorry for the way the paper described the research and any anxiety it caused,” Kramer wrote on Sunday. ” In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety.”
Facebook has been criticized for its privacy violations so many times that it’s hardly a “news” anymore. In 2012 Federal Trade Commission announced that it has accepted a settlement with Facebook resolving charges that “Facebook deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.” Here are a couple of posts that I wrote about Facebook and the privacy issues in 2012 and 2013.
- Facebook Faces Yet Another Class Action Lawsuit
- Survey Finds 60% Facebook Members May Quit Over Privacy Concerns
I don’t know of a company other than Facebook that has faced a lawsuit for tracking people even when they have completely logged out of their account. Facebook knowingly violates privacy and does things that it knows it can get away because what is the FTC going to do? Fine them a few billion dollars? Do you know the net worth of Facebook’s founder? Do you really think Facebook cares about what they would consider piddly issues?
Here is some of the press coverage on Facebook’s psychological testing.
- New York Times: After Uproar, European Regulators Question Facebook on Psychological Testing
- The Guardian: Facebook apologises for psychological experiments on users
- Windows IT Pro: Secret Facebook Test Riles Users
- CNET: Facebook’s Sandberg: We ‘really regret’ our secret-test misfire
- The Register: OMG, sorry about ‘poor comms’ on Facebook secret emoto-meddle tests. Laters!
The Facebook saga continues……
Copyright ©2014 Zubair Alexander. All rights reserved.