(Changes source; adds comment from regulator)
July 2 The British data watchdog is
investigating whether Facebook Inc violated
data-protection laws when it allowed researchers to conduct a
psychological experiment on its users.
A Facebook spokesman acknowledged that the experiment on
nearly 700,000 unwitting users in 2012 had upset users and said
the company would change the way it handled research in future.
The study, to find if Facebook could alter the emotional
state of users and prompt them to post either more positive or
negative content, has caused a furor on social media, including
"We're aware of this issue and will be speaking to Facebook,
as well as liaising with the Irish data protection authority, to
learn more about the circumstances," the Information
Commissioner's Office (ICO) spokesman Greg Jones said in an
Jones said it was too early to tell exactly what part of the
law Facebook may have infringed. The company's European
headquarters is in Ireland.
The Commissioner's Office monitors how personal data is used
and has the power to force organizations to change their
policies and can levy fines of up to 500,000 pounds ($839,500).
Facebook said it would work with regulators and was changing
the way it handled such cases.
"It's clear that people were upset by this study and we take
responsibility for it," Facebook spokesman Matt Steinfeld said
in an email.
"The study was done with appropriate protections for
people's information and we are happy to answer any questions
regulators may have."
The Financial Times first reported the probe. (on.ft.com/1iTezCj)
Internet privacy concerns shot up the agenda last year when
former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden
revealed details of mass U.S. surveillance programs involving
European citizens and some heads of state.
Last week, Google Inc said it has begun removing
some search results to comply with a European Union ruling
upholding citizens' right to have objectionable personal
information about them hidden in search engines.
($1=0.5956 British Pounds)
(Reporting by Supriya Kurane in Bangalore; Editing by Gopakumar
Warrier and Rodney Joyce)