The U.K. Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said recently that it will investigate Facebook’s crazy psychological experiment on its users. The ICO is an independent group that says it is “set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.” According to the Financial Times, the ICO is capable of fining Facebook up to £500,000 (approx. $857,842 USD), a slap on the wrist all things considered, but is also capable of “forcing” Facebook to change its own policies.
Facebook came under fire this week after findings from the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. In it, Facebook said it was able to prove that “emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness.” The social network was able to discover this after purposefully feeding some people mostly negative posts and others mostly positive posts. Facebook fooled with the emotions of 689,003 users during the experiment.
A Facebook engineer who participated in the experiment recently defended the company’s actions and said Facebook decided to research the effects because “[it cares] about the emotional impact of Facebook.” It’s unclear if Facebook broke data protection laws in the U.K., but according to the Financial Times, that’s exactly what the ICO is going to try to find out.