UK data regulator probes Facebook over psychological experiment - FT

Wed Jul 2, 2014 12:38pm IST

Facebook website pages opened in an internet browser is seen in this photo illustration taken in Lavigny May 16, 2012. REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud/Files

Facebook website pages opened in an internet browser is seen in this photo illustration taken in Lavigny May 16, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Valentin Flauraud/Files

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REUTERS - The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) in the UK is investigating whether Facebook Inc broke data protection laws when it allowed researchers to conduct a psychological experiment on users of the social network, the Financial Times reported.

The data regulator is probing the experiment and plans to ask Facebook questions, the newspaper reported. It was too early to tell exactly what part of the law Facebook may have infringed, the FT quoted a spokesperson for the ICO as saying.

Facebook's psychological experiment on nearly 700,000 unwitting users in 2012 has caused a social-media furor. The experiment was to find if Facebook could alter the emotional state of its users and prompt them to post either more positive or negative content.

"It's clear that people were upset by this study and we take responsibility for it. 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," a Facebook spokesman said in an email reply.

Representatives for ICO did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The ICO monitors how personal data is used and has the power to force organizations to change their policies and levy fines of up to 500,000 pounds ($839,500).

Internet privacy concerns shot up the agenda last year when former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed details of mass U.S. surveillance programs involving European citizens and some heads of state.

Last week, Google Inc said it has begun removing some search results to comply with a European Union ruling upholding citizens' right to have objectionable personal information about them hidden in search engines.

($1 = 0.5956 British Pounds)

(Reporting by Supriya Kurane in Bangalore; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier)

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