A few weeks ago, Dr. Smith described an experiment that Facebook did using the newsfeed of Facebook participants. The experiment consisted of adjusting the timeline of users to either reflect mostly negative posts or mostly positive posts and then assessing how the viewers’ attitude reflected what they were seeing. Based off of the experiment, there was a direct correlation between the attitude of posts being viewed and the attitude of the user’s posts.
Facebook is now issuing a formal apology for this experiment after publishing the results and receiving large quantities of backlash for this “emotional contagion.” Though they are not apologizing for the experiment itself, they are addressing that they did not clearly explain what the experiment was for and how they went about it as well as considering alternatives ways to have conducted the study.
Similar to a section of my post from last week, this is an issue because companies are taking action that consumers feel violate their personal privacy. Consumers rarely read the service terms because they’re so extraordinarily long and then proceed to become upset over things that are addressed in the terms. It does raise the question though, should companies like Facebook and Apple be allowed to issues service terms that are so long that you can almost guarantee not many users will read them? I think it falls on consumers. The cost of your privacy is the “free” service that you’re signing up for. There is a cost for everything, sometimes it just isn’t in the form of money.