Feeds

Journal that published Facebook emoto-furtle study: Proper boffins get CONSENT

There's a thing called 'Common Rule'. Heard of it, Mr Z?

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Facebook's ethical standards do not meet those of most researchers who conduct studies on human subjects, the journal which published the "secret", emotion-manipulative research on nearly 700,000 of the social network's users has said.

The journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PDF), has now made a statement about its publication of the controversial paper Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks. The study was co-authored by Facebook's data scientist Adam Kramer and researchers from the University of Cornell in New York and the University of California, San Francisco.

The journal did not apologise for publishing the research, which has come under fire from privacy groups and data regulators in the UK and Ireland as the data subjects, well Facebookers, were allegedly not explicitly asked for their consent.

Instead, PNAS appeared to put the blame on Facebook for behaving like, well, Facebook.

It said the Mark Zuckerberg-run company had made it clear in its Ts&Cs that, by creating a Facebook account, users were making an informed decision to consent to such research taking place.

However, that claim has been challenged by critics who say that the network's Data Use Policy did not state such activity in 2012 when the secret experiment was carried out. It's this complaint that the UK's Information Commissioner and Ireland's data watchdog - which is ultimately responsible for keeping an eye on the company's information-handling within the EU - are currently examining.

PNAS said:

Obtaining informed consent and allowing participants to opt out are best practices in most instances under the US Department of Health and Human Services Policy for the Protection of Human Research Subjects. (the "Common Rule").

Adherence to the Common Rule is PNAS policy, but as a private company Facebook was under no obligation to conform to the provisions of the Common Rule when it collected the data used by the authors, and the Common Rule does not preclude their use of the data.

The journal said its editors had decided to publish the paper based on what the authors had said about the research - that the work was "consistent with Facebook's Data Use Policy".

"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," PNAS added.

On Wednesday, Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg didn't say sorry for conducting the research, but simply said: "It was poorly communicated. And for that communication we apologise. We never meant to upset you." ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Black Hat anti-Tor talk smashed by lawyers' wrecking ball
Unmasking hidden users is too hot for Carnegie-Mellon
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
NUDE SNAPS AGENCY: NSA bods love 'showing off your saucy selfies'
Swapping other people's sexts is a fringe benefit, says Snowden
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.