Facebook refuses to apologize for secret testing on users

Facebook refuses to apologise for a controversial experiment it conducted this year. http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-29475019
In June, the site was criticised for manipulating the news feeds of nearly 700,000 users without their consent to gauge their reactions.
“[We] have taken to heart the comments and criticism. It is clear now that there are things we should have done differently,” Facebook said.
In a blog, chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer said the company should have “considered other non-experimental ways to do this research”.
He added: “In releasing the study, we failed to communicate clearly why and how we did it.”
The social network controlled the news feed of users over a one-week period in 2012 without their knowledge to manage which emotional expressions they were exposed to.
Study sparks furore
The experiment was part of a study by Facebook and two US universities. The social network said at the time it was to gauge whether “exposure to emotions led people to change their own posting behaviours”.
However, the company was widely criticised for manipulating material from people’s personal lives in order to play with user emotions or make them sad.
In response on Thursday, Facebook said that it was introducing new rules for conducting research on users with clearer guidelines, better training for researchers and a stricter review process.
But, it did not state whether or not it would notify users – or seek their consent – before starting a study.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in London, which supports data privacy for individuals, said Facebook’s comments were “a step in the right direction”, but it hoped to hear more about how the social network intends to improve transparency.
“Organisations who want to process people’s personal information without explicitly asking for their permission, for instance to carry out research, always need to proceed with caution,” an ICO spokesman said.
Should Facebook apologise?
IDC research analyst Jan van Vonno said it was Facebook’s responsibility to notify users of any studies they were partaking in.
“They’re going to continue that research and what they should do is make users aware of what they’re doing and that’s not really what they’re doing right now,” Mr van Vonno said.
An apology would be a sign of regret and they obviously don’t regret any of their actions because they think it’s for the benefit of their own platform.”
It was still important for Facebook to study consumer behaviour so it could maximize the impact advertisers had on the platform, which remains a huge source of revenue for the company, Mr van Vonno added.

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