Facebook might be one of the top three tech companies to work for, but it’s not as great for people who use it.
Every now and then, the social media giant provides a reason or two for users to hate it, mainly due to its abrupt changes and policies – especially the ones pertaining to privacy.
Just recently, in what is being called an act downright unethical at worst, it emerged that Facebook conducted a psychology experiment on nearly 700,000 users – in secret.
Predictably, as it often happens online, outrage ensued.
People slammed Facebook for using their personal data without informing or asking and condemned – for the umpteenth time in 10 years – the social network’s breach of privacy.
However, all the critics and opponents of the research study ignored one major fact: Facebook has always been this creepy and the latest stunt they have pulled is nothing new.
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Through the test, the social network is believed to have manipulated news feeds and timelines to “control which emotional expressions the users were exposed to.”
Although Facebook claimed that the study, which carried out in collaboration with two U.S. universities, didn’t use any data associated with a specific person's account, not many people were convinced.
Facebook secretly experiments on users to try make them sad. What could go wrong? pic.twitter.com/1DUoetnr9i— Lauren Weinstein (@laurenweinstein) June 29, 2014
Let's call the Facebook experiment what it is: a symptom of a much wider failure to think about ethics, power and consent on platforms.— Kate Crawford (@katecrawford) June 28, 2014
While the outrage over the “secret” part of the entire matter is understandable, critics of the experiment ought to realize the fact that Facebook has always used such personal information to achieve certain targets in the past – again – without any notification or request to do so.
In addition, what Facebook has done is not illegal. In fact, users could be counted as legitimate participants in the research study. Dan Diamond of Forbes magazine noted in his article that:
“Users agree to terms of service that permit the company to do these sorts of experiments. And Facebook isn’t the only Web platform testing all kinds of interventions to gauge customer behavior.”
Above all, offended parties must realize that social networking platforms such as Facebook thrive on user information which people provide themselves.
Therefore, the only defense against such unsavory online snooping would be to “not” provide personal details you don’t want to go out there.
It’s as simple as that.
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