Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at the f8 Facebook Developer Conference in April 2014, in San Francisco.
A privacy and digital rights group has launched the first challenge in the United States against Facebook for its controversial emotion manipulation study.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a public interest research center, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), accusing Facebook of failing to inform its users of the experiment, deceptive trade practices and of effectively manipulating users' minds, and urging the FTC to open an investigation.
"The company purposefully messed with people’s minds,""The company purposefully messed with people’s minds,"the complaint read.
EPIC claimed Facebook violated its own Data Use Policy because the word "research" was not included in the text at the time of the experiment, in January 2012, as first reported by Forbes.
The privacy group also claims that at the time of the experiment, Facebook was compelled to obtain users' express consent when sharing information with third parties (in this case, the external researchers who participated in the study, as required by an FTC order).
This legal challenge adds up to the existing controversy and anger around Facebook's 2012 experiment in which the company altered the News Feeds of 700,000 users for one week. The users were shown either solely negative or solely positive updates from their friends. The goal of the study was to determine whether users would be influenced — if there would be "emotional contagion."
The FTC technically has jurisdiction to investigate this case, since part of its mission is to police "unfair" and "deceptive" business practices.
The agency refused to comment on whether they would open an investigation earlier this week, following a Mash inquiry.
In response to the complaint, Facebook sent Mashable the following statement:
In its complaint, EPIC demands "sanctions" for Facebook, including forcing the social network to publish the secretive algorithm that generates user's News Feeds.
Earlier this week, the British Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) already announced an investigation into whether Facebook violated data collection laws. If the two American groups file their complaints and the FTC opens an investigation, Facebook would now face legal challenges across the ocean.
"There should be no more secret manipulation of Internet users," Marc Rotenberg, EPIC's president, said in a statement.
Tags: EMOTION MANIPULATION STUDY, Facebook, FTC, PRIVACY, U.S., US & World, WORLD