The dust has settled on the Grand Facebook Emotion Experiment, in which the social network automatically filtered what 700,000 users saw on their newsfeeds for the span of a week in 2012 based on whether posts contained negatively or positively charged words to see if that affected those users’ posts. Since many users saw Facebook’s experiment as manipulative, the company’s chief operating officer has issued another apology for the experiment.

According to a post on CNET, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg spoke yesterday to Indian television station NDTV in New Delhi, and gave her apology for how things all shook out:

“So we clearly communicated really badly about this, and that we really regret. We do research in an ongoing way, in a very privacy-protected way, to improve our service, and this was done with that goal. I think we are in communication with regulators all over the world and this will be OK. And we will continue to make sure users understand that we care about their privacy. We care about their experience, and we want to do everything we can to give them the best experience we can.”

Sandberg went on to explain that part of the problem here comes from poor communication in terms of the experiment’s intent and scope:

“Facebook has apologized and certainly never wants to do anything that upsets users and particularly for communicating really badly in this case. It has been communicated as an experiment to shift emotions. It’s not exactly what it was. It was an experiment in showing people different things to see how it worked. And again, what really matters here is that we take people’s privacy incredibly seriously and we will continue to do that and give people control and a great experience.”

It’s possible that this is the last we’ll hear about Facebook’s experiment, though some wonder whether or not it broke the law by not asking for explicit consent for participation. A Daily Mail article reports that the Information Commissioner’s Office, or ICO, is investigating Facebook for mishandling the subjects’ private data. In the end, however, even if it’s discovered that what they did was illegal, don’t be surprised if Facebook keeps on chugging along with nary a blip.

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[Sources: CNET, Daily Mail, BoingBoing]


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