Facebook could possibly face an investigation after privacy groups complained to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). At the start of the week, users were shocked to find out that their newsfeeds may have been manipulated for a study. Many complain that they did not approve of being part of a scientific study, and privacy groups in France and the UK argue that laws may have been broken.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center is the first group to file an official FTC complaint against the social networking site. It wants to know the algorithm that was used to manipulate the feeds, and the one that is currently used to determine the posts that a person will see on a daily basis. The group claims that the conduct was deceptive and violated the Consent Order set by the Commission in 2012.
In January 2012, almost 700,000 feeds were manipulated for the sake of the study. It was to see how negative and positive posts from friends affected a users’ mood, and found that fewer positive posts led to a more negative outlook. There were limitations to the study, as it required filtering posts based on the words used within the status updates and then waited for status updates from the users.
Shortly after the news of the manipulation, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences decided that some of the academic research principles may have been violated due to people not consenting to being a part of it. They also had no idea that a scientific study was taking place. However, it did admit that the social networking giant did not need to adhere to those principles because it is not a non-profit business. However, the decision for Facebook to manipulate newsfeeds made be investigated after the FTC complaints.
This is not the first time the social networking company has had FTC complaints filed against it. In fact, the Electronic Privacy Information Center has been at the center of the filing of these complaints in the past. The Commissions act in 2012 was created due to a complaint filed in 2010. The FTC acknowledged that Facebook focused on people sharing their information online while claiming users could keep it all private. It was a deceptive practice that the Commission wanted to stop.
The social media company has since apologized for the stress and anxiety that the news of manipulated feeds has caused. However, it has not quite apologized for the actions. It still defends those actions for the sake of research, and to make sure it can offer the best experience to its users. That has not made people feel easier about realizing they may have been part of an experiment without being aware of it.
The tech giant states that it has not broken any privacy rules. In fact, its own terms of service allegedly allow the site to manipulate newsfeeds in this matter. It shows the danger of not reading the fine print of these terms of services or understanding the full meanings.
That does not necessarily mean the site’s terms of service is legal or morally right. The FTC may proceed with an investigation into Facebook after it has received complaints from privacy groups.
By Alexandria Ingham
The Elkhart Truth