It is common knowledge amongst Facebook users that once you register an account with Facebook you are giving Facebook staff the rights to use your data as part of their research, it has not been quite so expected however that they would exploit this information as much as they have done and in such ways as have been revealed recently.
It has been revealed that in 2012, Facebook carried out a covert social experiment (a study of emotions) on approximately 700,000 of its users at random to determine whether most statuses were positive or negative on their news feeds would affect users’ moods.
Facebook’s scientific team were introduced in 2007 and have since been running a variety of experiments under the radar or which some claim do not forgo the most rigorous overseeing.
One former scientific researcher from the team claims that they are constantly attempting to manipulate peoples’ behaviour with social experimentation, quite concerning for the everyday user frequenting the news feed.
Justification of the study is supposedly that it will be advantageous to Facebook users as the research will determine ways in which to improve the services and content available to people on the site.
The study concluded that emotions expressed by other Facebook users do influence the individual’s emotions especially that the observation of positive experiences of others results in a positive range of emotions from users witnessing such posts.
Problems with the data analysis appear when we looks at the facts: The sample size was relatively small – a mere 700,000, considering Facebook’s vast user base, this is not representative- , also that the words used in statuses, even if negative, may not necessarily reflect the emotional state of the user.
The consensus is that the study of emotions was unethical as it breaches the psychological principle of ‘informed consent’, whilst users do accept the terms and conditions when they sign up, they may not realise the potential harm they could endure, although connecting through social media is advantageous, real life interaction is good for wellbeing and is perhaps less vulnerable to such wide scale manipulation. Be careful signing up to social networking sites, always read the terms and conditions.