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U.K. Regulators Investigate Facebook's Emotions Experiment

/ Source: Associated Press

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British regulators are investigating revelations that Facebook treated hordes of its users like laboratory rats in an experiment probing into their emotions. The Information Commissioner's Office said Wednesday that it wants to learn more about the circumstances underlying a 2-year-old study carried out by two U.S. universities and the world's largest social network. The inquiry is being coordinated with authorities in Ireland, where Facebook has headquarters for its European operations, as well as with French regulators. It's the latest in a string of incidents that have raised questions about whether the privacy rights of Facebook's nearly 1.3 billion users are being trampled by the company's drive to dissect data and promote behavior that could help sell more online advertising.

In this case, Facebook allowed researchers to manipulate the content that appeared in the "news feed" of about 700,000 random users during one week in January 2012. The data-scientists were trying to collect evidence to prove their thesis that people's moods could spread like an "emotional contagion" depending on the tenor of the content they were reading.

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