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Privacy group files FTC complaint over Facebook's 'emotional contagion' study

Nancy Weil | July 4, 2014
Facebook "purposefully messed with people's minds" in a "secretive and non-consensual" study on nearly 700,000 users whose emotions were intentionally manipulated when the company altered their news feeds for research purposes, a digital privacy rights group charges in a complaint filed with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Apart from the privacy implications and questionable ethics of social-media experimentation on users who had no idea they were part of a study, Facebook also altered its data use policy in May 2012, four months after the study was conducted. The policy change specifically said that user data might be used for research and could be shared with researchers, a major point of contention in the EPIC complaint.

Regulators in the U.K. and Ireland are also investigating the study.

Facebook issued a statement via email when asked for comment about EPIC's complaint with the FTC, saying that the company isn't commenting about the complaint specifically.

When someone signs up for Facebook, weve always asked permission to use their information to provide and enhance the services we offer," the company also said via email. "To suggest we conducted any corporate research without permission is complete fiction. Companies that want to improve their services use the information their customers provide, whether their privacy policy uses the word research' or not.

 

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