Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) is under massive scrutiny this week after it was discovered that the social media company had conducted a psychological experiment on approximately 700,000 users without their knowledge. The study occurred during the year of 2012 and lasted for a span of only one week. The depth of the research is still considered quite shallow considering the experiment only included a small pool of test subjects and a relatively short time frame.
During a single week in 2012 that the study was conducted, Adam Kramer, Facebook’s own scientist on staff, along with representatives from Cornell University and the University of California at San Francisco manipulated the news feed for nearly 700,000 English-speaking Facebook users in order to control the type of emotional content that they would be exposed to. The objective of the experiment was to determine if there were any correlations between the content that users saw on their news feed and what the users were posting on their own personal page.
The psychological study depicted that there is actually some correlation between the two practices. The experiment showed that users who been had exposed to fewer posts with negative emotions were more likely to post something positive on their Facebook page and vice versa.
Adam Kramer comments on the study, “We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out.” In addition to this issue, Facebook was concerned that this aspect of their platform would lead users to stray away the social media site, hence the study.
It was all legal
Even though massive arguments and debates are currently surrounding this issue, in reality, Facebook did not break any laws or violate any rights. If we look deep into the policy agreement that all Facebook users agreed to, we can see that the social media giant can use the information about us, acquired through Facebook’s platform, to perform studies and experiments and pretty much anything the company can come up with. Regardless of the agreed upon terms, the public cannot help but feel that Facebook has crossed a threshold that users are not entirely comfortable with.