When it comes to online privacy, no other company is as controversial as social networking site Facebook and the latest report appears to put the company into more controversy.
According to a report published in the Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences, Facebook conducted secret psychological experiments on 600,000 users without their knowledge in January 2012. The experiments include changing the users' news feeds to highlight positive or negative posts from friends to determine their reactions. The report stated:
"When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred. These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks."
Before any of you lashes out at Facebook, it is important to note that Facebook has every right to carry out that experiment. When you sign up for a Facebook account, you give permission to Facebook under its Data Use Policy to use the information it receives "for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement." The report also stated that a machine was used to conduct the experiments and no personal information from the 600,000 users was accessed.
Nonetheless, this incident is bound to ruffle some feathers among privacy advocates who have long criticized Facebook for its lack of transparency on how it collects and monetizes data of its users.