Facebook Faces Investigation Over Emotions Study

Facebook’s controversial psychological study on users is to be investigated by the UK regulator, Information Commissioner’s Office and Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner.


Photo: Gil C / Shutterstock

ICO is concerned that Facebook violated the country’s data protection laws by altering the content on the news feeds of nearly 700,000 people to see how it impacted them emotionally.

Facebook defended the study earlier in the week but said in a statement that they “are happy to answer any questions regulators may have.”

ICO’s investigation will spread over to Ireland as well as Facebook’s European offices are headquartered in Dublin and any EU law matters must go through Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner. The Register reports:

“We’re aware of this issue, and will be speaking to Facebook, as well as liaising with the Irish data protection authority, to learn more about the circumstances,” a spokesman told us.

“It’s clear that people were upset by this study and we take responsibility for it,” said Richard Allan, a spokesman for Facebook, reported by Bloomberg.

“We want to do better in the future and are improving our process based on this feedback. The study was done with appropriate protections for people’s information and we are happy to answer any questions regulators may have.”

Facebook’s “mood experiment” was conducted in January 2012 for one week on hundreds of thousands of users. Content was manipulated to either show only positive or negative comments with Facebook gauging how people reacted.