UK Regulator Confirms It's Probing Facebook Over Emotion Experiment

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UK Regulator Confirms It's Probing Facebook Over Emotion Experiment

British data protection authorities are investigating revelations that Facebook conducted a psychological experiment on its users.

The Information Commissioner's Office said in a statement Wednesday that it wants to learn more about the circumstances of the experiment carried out by two U.S. universities and the social network. The researchers manipulated the news feeds of about 700,000 randomly selected users to study the impact of "emotional contagion," or how emotional states are transferred to others.

The commissioner's office is working with authorities in Ireland, headquarters of Facebook's European operations. French authorities are also reviewing the matter.

The Financial Times had reported ICO's involvement in the Facebook investigation earlier this week. The ICO monitors how personal data is used and has the power to force organizations to change their policies and levy fines of up to 500,000 pounds ($839,500).

Last week, Facebook revealed that it had manipulated the news feeds of over half a million randomly selected users to change the number of positive and negative posts they saw. It was part of a psychological study to examine how emotions can be spread on social media.

The company says users consent to this kind of manipulation when they agree to its terms of service. But in the quick judgment of the Internet, that argument was not universally accepted.

Internet privacy concerns shot up the agenda last year when former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed details of mass US surveillance programs involving European citizens and some heads of state.

The concern also comes amid interest in Europe about beefing up data protection rules. The European Court of Justice in May ruled that Google must respond to user requests seeking to remove links to personal information.

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