Research Ethics Blog

Facebook and ‘Being Experimented Upon’

Following on my recent blog posting about the Facebook emotion-manipulation study, here’s a useful piece from The Atlantic: How Much Should You Know About How Facebook Works?

The piece focuses on the ubiquity of constantly-tweaked algorithms in online services such as Google and Facebook. The algorithms such companies use today are quite different from the ones they used 5 years ago, in part because the companies are constantly experimenting and using the results of those experiments to adjust the “math” behind your Facebook newsfeed and your Google search results.

Cornell professor Jeff Hancock, one of the authors of the infamous study, is quoted as asking: “If you think about Google search and you say, ‘I don’t want to be experimented on,’ then the question is, well, what does that mean?

Good question!