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Facebook Charged with FTC Violations for Messing with Users’ Minds

07.08.14

EPIC alleges that Facebook’s “secretive and non-consensual use of personal information to conduct an ongoing psychological experiment on 700,000 Facebook users.” On July 3, 2014 EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) filed a complaint with the FTC that Facebook “purposefully messed with people’s minds” when:

Facebook altered the News Feeds of Facebook users to elicit positive and negative emotional responses.

Facebook conducted the psychological experiment with researchers at Cornell University and the University of California, San Francisco, who failed to follow standard ethical protocols for human subject research.

EPIC claims that Facebook violated its 2012 Consent Decree with the FTC that requires Facebook to “established new privacy safeguards for Facebook users” and specifically prohibits Facebook from:

  • misrepresenting the extent to which it maintains the privacy or security of covered information.
  • misrepresenting “its collection or disclosure of any covered information,” and “the extent to which Respondent makes or has made covered information accessible to third parties.”

The Complaint includes these causes of action:

Count I: Deceptive Failure to Inform Users that their Data Would Be Shared With Third-Party Researchers

Count II: Unfair Failure to Inform Users That They Were Subject to Behavioral Testing

Count III: Violation of the 2012 Consent Order

It will be interesting to follow the EPIC case and how Facebook and the FTC respond.

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