UK opens probe into Facebook's psych experiment - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

UK opens probe into Facebook's psych experiment

Posted: Updated:

LONDON (AP) — British regulators are investigating revelations that Facebook treated hordes of its users like laboratory rats in an experiment probing into their emotions.

The Information Commissioner's Office said Wednesday that it wants to learn more about the circumstances underlying a 2-year-old study carried out by two U.S. universities and the world's largest social network.

The inquiry is being coordinated with authorities in Ireland, where Facebook has headquarters for its European operations, as well as with French regulators.

This is just the latest in a string of incidents that have raised questions about whether the privacy rights of Facebook's nearly 1.3 billion users are being trampled by the company's drive to dissect data and promote behavior that could help sell more online advertising.

In this case, Facebook allowed researchers to manipulate the content that appeared in the main section, or "news feed," of about 700,000 randomly selected users during a single week in January 2012. The data-scientists were trying to collect evidence to prove their thesis that people's moods could spread like an "emotional contagion" depending on the tenor of the content that they were reading.

The study concluded that people were more likely to post negative updates about their lives after the volume of positive information appearing in their Facebook feeds had been purposefully reduced by the researchers. The opposite reaction occurred when the number of negative posts appeared in people's news feeds.

None of the participants in the Facebook experiments were explicitly asked for their permission, though the social network's terms of use appears to allow for the company to manipulate what appears in users' news feeds however it sees fits.

Facebook's data-use policy says the Menlo Park, California, company can deploy user information for "internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement."

The reaction to the study itself provided evidence of how quickly an emotional contagion can spread online. The research was released a month ago, but it didn't provoke a backlash until the past few days after other social media sites and essays in The New York Times and The Atlantic raised red flags about the ethics of Facebook's experiment.

As it has done in several past breaches of privacy etiquette, Facebook is now trying to make amends.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, told television network NDTV in India that "we clearly communicated really badly about this and that we really regret." Later she added: "Facebook has apologized and certainly we never want to do anything that upsets users."

The words of contrition sounded hollow to Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a privacy-rights group. He points to Facebook job openings looking for researchers specializing in data mining and analysis as evidence that the company still has every intention of digging deeper into its users' psyches and preferences.

"They are engaged in secret surveillance of its users to figure out how to make more money for their advertisers," Chester said.

Whatever Facebook has been doing has been paying off for the company and its shareholders. Facebook's revenue last year rose 55 percent to $7.9 billion and its stock has nearly tripled in value during the past year.

The concern over Facebook's experiment comes amid interest in Europe about beefing up data-protection rules. The European Court of Justice last month ruled that Google must respond to users' requests seeking to remove links to personal information.

 

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Victims in Lewiston double homicide identified

    Victims in Lewiston double homicide identified

    Wednesday, November 22 2017 9:38 PM EST2017-11-23 02:38:39 GMT

    LEWISTON, Idaho - Autopsies have been performed on the two women who were found dead in Lewiston on Tuesday. One victim was identified as suspect Richard Allen Carlin's ex-wife, 72-year-old Raetta Dee Carlin. The other woman was identified as 50-year-old Michelle Lynn Carlin, the daughter of Raetta and Richard Carlin.

    >>

    LEWISTON, Idaho - Autopsies have been performed on the two women who were found dead in Lewiston on Tuesday. One victim was identified as suspect Richard Allen Carlin's ex-wife, 72-year-old Raetta Dee Carlin. The other woman was identified as 50-year-old Michelle Lynn Carlin, the daughter of Raetta and Richard Carlin.

    >>
  • Semi crash on I-90 in Coeur d'Alene blocks eastbound lanes for hours

    Semi crash on I-90 in Coeur d'Alene blocks eastbound lanes for hours

    Wednesday, November 22 2017 10:41 PM EST2017-11-23 03:41:53 GMT

    COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - One person was taken to the hospital after a crash with a semi truck in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Wednesday morning. It happened around 11:45 a.m. Idaho State Police report a white 2017 Freightliner truck towing three box trailers driven by 40-year-old Ricardo T.J. Saenz of Pasco, Washington. was headed eastbound and attempted to change lanes.

    >>

    COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - One person was taken to the hospital after a crash with a semi truck in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Wednesday morning. It happened around 11:45 a.m. Idaho State Police report a white 2017 Freightliner truck towing three box trailers driven by 40-year-old Ricardo T.J. Saenz of Pasco, Washington. was headed eastbound and attempted to change lanes.

    >>
  • Man charged in police pursuit crash that killed 3-year-old

    Man charged in police pursuit crash that killed 3-year-old

    Wednesday, November 22 2017 7:31 PM EST2017-11-23 00:31:28 GMT

     WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) - A teenage driver who authorities say crashed his car at an intersection while fleeing police, killing a 3-year-old and injuring four other people faces charges.    Eighteen-year-old Zekhi Lee was charged Wednesday with first-degree manslaughter and evading responsibility in connection with the Tuesday afternoon crash. He's being held on $1.2 million bail.

    >>

     WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) - A teenage driver who authorities say crashed his car at an intersection while fleeing police, killing a 3-year-old and injuring four other people faces charges.    Eighteen-year-old Zekhi Lee was charged Wednesday with first-degree manslaughter and evading responsibility in connection with the Tuesday afternoon crash. He's being held on $1.2 million bail.

    >>
HD DOPPLER 6i
/
  • Top Stories from KHQHomeMore>>

  • Head-on crash kills 1, injures 8, when driver attempts to pass slow-moving vehicle on Hwy 95

    Head-on crash kills 1, injures 8, when driver attempts to pass slow-moving vehicle on Hwy 95

    Thursday, November 23 2017 3:28 PM EST2017-11-23 20:28:13 GMT

    SAGLE, Idaho - A fatal and serious injury head-on crash has killed one man and injured eight others, including five children, who all had to be transported to Kootenai Health. The crash occurred on Wednesday, November 22, the day before Thanksgiving, on Highway 95 at milepost 466.5, two miles south of Sagle, Idaho.

    >>

    SAGLE, Idaho - A fatal and serious injury head-on crash has killed one man and injured eight others, including five children, who all had to be transported to Kootenai Health. The crash occurred on Wednesday, November 22, the day before Thanksgiving, on Highway 95 at milepost 466.5, two miles south of Sagle, Idaho.

    >>
  • Sound heard in Argentine sub search could be explosion

    Sound heard in Argentine sub search could be explosion

    Thursday, November 23 2017 2:45 PM EST2017-11-23 19:45:18 GMT

    MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina (AP) - Argentina's navy announced Thursday that a sound detected during the search for a missing submarine is consistent with that of an explosion - an ominous development in the hunt for the vessel and its 44 crew members.   Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said that the relatives of the crew have been informed and that the search will continue until there is full certainty about the fate of the ARA San Juan.

    >>

    MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina (AP) - Argentina's navy announced Thursday that a sound detected during the search for a missing submarine is consistent with that of an explosion - an ominous development in the hunt for the vessel and its 44 crew members.   Navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said that the relatives of the crew have been informed and that the search will continue until there is full certainty about the fate of the ARA San Juan.

    >>
  • Wind advisory with winds up to 55mph in effect until 5pm

    Wind advisory with winds up to 55mph in effect until 5pm

    Thursday, November 23 2017 2:19 PM EST2017-11-23 19:19:27 GMT

    KHQ.COM - It's is going to be a windy and wet Thanksgiving day! We are under a wind advisory for parts of the inland northwest in eastern Washington and N. Idaho from 11am - 5pm today. Gusts could get up to 55mph which is something you'll want to keep in mind if you're frying those turkeys outside. Sustained winds will be between 15 and 25mph. Winds are expected to peak between 1 and 3pm.

    >>

    KHQ.COM - It's is going to be a windy and wet Thanksgiving day! We are under a wind advisory for parts of the inland northwest in eastern Washington and N. Idaho from 11am - 5pm today. Gusts could get up to 55mph which is something you'll want to keep in mind if you're frying those turkeys outside. Sustained winds will be between 15 and 25mph. Winds are expected to peak between 1 and 3pm.

    >>