Controversy Over Facebook Emotions Experiment Continues

facebook-privacyWhen it came out earlier this week that Facebook was secretly experimenting with the emotions of users via their Timeline, many people were outraged. How could the site have done something so unethical? Why weren’t any standards in place to prevent such a study? More information has continued to come out about the study this week, and none of it’s good; it’s been revealed that the Cornell University ethics board did not pre-approve the study before they participated in it with Facebook, and that Facebook’s own data usage policy at the time of the experiment may have not “implied” user permission, as previously argued by the site.

Four months after the study was conducted, Facebook added a line to its data policy about how it could use user information “For internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.” This would suggest that Facebook conducted the study without user permission, though the site insisted otherwise in an interview with Forbes.

“When someone signs up for Facebook, we’ve always asked permission to use their information to provide and enhance the services we offer,” a Facebook spokesman said. “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 or not their privacy policy uses the word ‘research’ or not.”

For as much as Facebook wants this story to go away (and as many half-hearted apologies it offers), it’s clear this controversy won’t be done anytime soon.