Facebook didn't follow ethics: Journal

Facebook didn't follow ethics: Journal

Summary: A lack of informed consent in its controversial experiment has seen the journal that published the Facebook study question the ethics of the study.

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The scientific journal that published a controversial Facebook experiment on mood manipulation says it's concerned that the company didn't follow scientific ethics and principles of informed consent.

While it stopped short of retracting the study, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences said it typically publishes experiments that have allowed subjects to opt out of research.

Facebook appeared to have been exempt from this rule because all users agree to a policy on data use when they open an account, constituting informed consent for research, according to PNAS.

"Based on the information provided by the authors, PNAS editors deemed it appropriate to publish the paper," said a statement by editor-in-chief Inder Verma.

"It is nevertheless a matter of concern that the collection of the data by Facebook may have involved practices that were not fully consistent with the principles of obtaining informed consent and allowing participants to opt out."

The journal explained that the US government protects those who participate in research by establishing best practices that scientists obtain informed consent and allowing subjects to opt out, a policy known as the Common Rule.

It said that Cornell University reviewers determined ahead of publication that Facebook's experiment did not fall under the government's human research protection program because it was conducted for internal purposes.

PNAS's statement followed a formal complaint filed by privacy activists to US regulators seeking an urgent investigation.

Topics: Privacy, Social Enterprise

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6 comments
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  • The company??

    Uh, no. The only one that could possibly be at fault is Cornell. Typical academic butt covering. If you think they messed, just admit it. The "evil corporation" scapegoat is just lame.
    Buster Friendly
    • Buster Friendly: "The company??"

      When did Cornell gain a controlling interest in Facebook? Facebook could have said no to the experiment. Or it could have informed its sheep, errr ... users, and requested their consent. Something like, all in favor say 'Baaaa'.

      Ultimately, what happens on Facebook is Facebook' responsibility.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • Nope

        Nope. If it's Cornell's study published in a journal, it's Cornell's responsibility to cover the ethics procedures and the journal's responsibility to make sure they were followed. If they use 3rd parties to conduct their experiment, it's still their responsibility. Facebook on the other hand is not required to follow such procedures to conduct marketing research they originate. It's logically impossibly for anyone but Cornell and the journal to be at fault. If they were real scientist, they would admit this and move on but often academics are only children that never got out of school.
        Buster Friendly
        • Buster Friendly: "If it's Cornell's study published in a journal ..."

          Is it Cornell's study? Here's a link to the actual article:

          "Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks"
          http://www.pnas.org/content/111/24/8788.full?sid=ada5f486-08da-40f8-8809-43fa1dce2e79

          The article authors are listed, in this exact order:

          1. Adam D. I. Kramer, Facebook, Inc.
          2. Jamie E. Guillory, Cornell Univ. (now at UCSD)
          3. Jeffrey T. Hancock, Cornell Univ.

          Under Footnotes on page 1 of the article:

          o all correspondence related to the article is to be addressed via email to Adam D. I. Kramer, Facebook, Inc.
          o the research design is attributed to all 3 authors
          o the research was performed by Adam D. I. Kramer, Facebook, Inc.
          o the research data were analyzed by Adam D. I. Kramer, Facebook, Inc.
          o the paper was written by all 3 authors

          Ergo, Facebook was not a 3rd party for this research.
          Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Correction: Jamie E. Guillory, Cornell Univ. (now at UCSF)

            Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Terms and conditions!

    Am I the only one who has sat down and read terms and conditions?

    FB kept changing them and since I did not really like them in the first place, just trying to stay in touch with bloggers who were migrating to lazy social media, I clicked delete and have never been happier.

    Read terms and conditions, it will take you ages but you will at least know that they stink...
    dumb blonde