Facebook has has a pretty shitty week in the media. Last week, we found out that they’d conducted an “emotional contagion” study in 2012 on almost 700,000 users without their knowledge. Advocates of privacy and informed consent raged, but defenders pointed out that Facebook’s User Agreement contains a sentence that warns users they can use your information for “internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement,” arguably making the experiment legal, if still questionably ethical. But now Forbes reports that the language in question wasn’t actually added to the User Agreement until four months after the experiment took place. A link to the old User Agreement from 2011 proves this language was absent at that time.
The Wall Street Journal also pointed out that the study was not filtered to only include adults, but anyone from 13 years of age and up, adding another layer of ethical quandary to this situation. Scientists and regular users are still in disagreement over whether this study is truly problematic, just a regular occurrence or both. And a few people are even starting to note the irony that a story about the follies of Facebook grew to massive popularity… mainly via Facebook.