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Predictably, lots of people haven't been too thrilled that Facebook manipulated the newsfeeds of almost 700,000 users to see if being exposed to positive or negative stories affected their moods. But while the author of the controversial study has since apologised, Facebook's skulduggery hasn't escaped the attention of the authorities. A British data regulator has now launched an inquiry into Facebook's handling of personal data.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is now investigating the experiment to see if Facebook infringed any UK data protection laws. "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 spokesperson for the ICO told the Independent. The regulator has the power to issue fines of up to £500,000.
"It’s clear that people were upset by this study and we take responsibility for it," Richard Allan, Facebook's European director of policy, admitted. "We want to do better in the future and are improving our process based on this feedback."
Facebook users were outraged when news of the 2012 study broke, protesting that the mass experiment only serves to demonstrate the company's singular lack of boundaries when it comes to consent or ethics. And while technically speaking, the study wasn't illegal (you consent to pretty much anything when you sign up to Facebook's terms and conditions), it's still kind of creepy.
Follow Thomas Gorton on Twitter here @angstromhoot
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