Social networking giant Facebook has come under criticism for conducting psychology experiments on its users without first seeking their permission.
According to reports in the press, the firm tested almost 700,000 people with a Facebook account without letting them know. The test, carried out to assess emotional behaviour, was performed in partnership with two universities in America.
In each test, users had their newsfeeds manipulated by Facebook operatives to assess how:
“…exposure to emotions led people to change their own posting behaviours.”
With some people questioning the ethical and moral judgement of the firm, Labour MP Jim Sheridan pushed for an independent investigation to be created, saying:
“They are manipulating material from people’s personal lives and I am worried about the ability of Facebook and others to manipulate people’s thoughts in politics or other areas.”
Others have said the action by Facebook is nothing out of the ordinary or to be alarmed about, and should be accepted by anyone that has agreed to have an account.
Facebook has also said that it did not unnecessarily collect people’s data and all the info that was collected could not be traced to specific accounts.
The study, conducted in association with Cornell University and the University of California, ran for one week in 2012. Analysing 689,000 users, it found that those with fewer negative posts in their news feed were less likely to write a negative post themselves.
The paper’s researchers have apologised for not letting people know about the test.