Regulators Take Stern Look at Facebook Study

As Cornell clarifies its involvement

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 2, 2014 8:23 AM CDT

(Newser) – Facebook's controversial emotional manipulation study has users outraged and, at least in Europe, regulators are responding. The study has prompted "several" European data protection agencies, including Britain's Information Commissioner's Office and Ireland's Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, to look into whether Facebook broke privacy laws, the New York Times reports—the latter agency being important because Facebook's international headquarters are in Dublin. Neither has launched a formal investigation yet, but the Irish agency has sent questions to Facebook about the study. More:

  • The uproar has Cornell clarifying its involvement, the Washington Post reports. Both a Cornell professor and doctoral student worked with Facebook on the study, and Cornell on Monday issued a statement explaining that the experiment took place before Cornell's Institutional Review Board was made aware of it, and that "the research was conducted independently by Facebook," with the Cornell participants merely accessing the results of it.
  • Forbes points out that Facebook's data use policy currently reads that user info can be used "for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement." Except that line was introduced in May 2012; the experiment took place in January 2012.
  • But as angry as people are, most aren't quitting the social network, USA Today reports, though it cites only anecdotal interviews with users to support this hypothesis. "I don't see anyone on Facebook saying they are going to quit altogether," one user says. "It's just a part of our lives now."

In this June 11, 2014 photo, a man poses for photographs in front of the Facebook sign on the Facebook campus in Menlo Park, Calif.
In this June 11, 2014 photo, a man poses for photographs in front of the Facebook sign on the Facebook campus in Menlo Park, Calif.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
In this May 16, 2012 file photo, a Facebook logo is displayed on the screen of an iPad in New York.
In this May 16, 2012 file photo, a Facebook logo is displayed on the screen of an iPad in New York.   (AP Photo/James H. Collins, File)
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