Earlier this year, the social network giant Facebook released the results of a behavioral study dating back to 2011. The study used a sample of users—roughly a million out of a billion plus active users counts as a “sample”–and altered their news feeds without direct prior notice.
Since the experiment dealt with how positive or negative news affected the user, the stance taken by some of the researchers is that giving notice would’ve likely tainted the experiment. When doing such experiments into human behavior it’s generally preferred that everything plays out naturally. It was also mentioned that permission was given upon joining Facebook in terms of service agreement.
Facebook experienced negative reactions once everything was laid out. With feeling towards privacy, data security, and manipulation still raw following the Snowden revelations, Facebook wasn’t going to be in the best light when the results came out.
Fast forward a couple of months later and Facebook deems that now is the right time to apologize for the experiment. CTO Mike Schroepfer stated that Facebook could’ve handled things better as well as done a more transparent job of carrying out research.
Three main areas of focus were laid out to show how Facebook would be changing their approach to research in the future: guidelines, review, and training. Also introduced was a research website which houses all of Facebook’s research and is available for public consumption.
The steps listed allow for Facebook to give some heads up a new study is coming up and perhaps do so without tainting research. At the very least there shouldn’t be any more instances of “Guess what, we were doing a study on you guys for several years.”
SOURCE: Facebook Newsroom