In June, the social giant received criticism for manipulating the news feeds of nearly 700,000 users without their consent. The network said it was “unprepared” for the backlash it received. “[We] have taken to heart the comments and criticism. It is clear now that there are things we should have done differently,” Facebook said. In a blog, chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer said the company should have “considered other non-experimental ways to do this research”.
In response on Thursday, Facebook said that it was introducing new rules for conducting research on users with clearer guidelines, better training for researchers and a stricter review process. But, it did not state whether or not it would notify users – or seek their consent – before starting a study. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in London, which supports data privacy for individuals, said Facebook’s comments were “a step in the right direction”, but it hoped to hear more about how the social network intends to improve transparency. “Organizations who want to process people’s personal information without explicitly asking for their permission, for instance to carry out research, always need to proceed with caution,” an ICO spokesman said.
IDC research analyst Jan van Vonno said it was Facebook’s responsibility to notify users of any studies they were partaking in. “They’re going to continue that research and what they should do is make users aware of what they’re doing and that’s not really what they’re doing right now,” Mr. van Vonno said. An apology would be a sign of regret and they obviously don’t regret any of their actions because they think it’s for the benefit of their own platform.”
It was still important for Facebook to study consumer behavior so it could maximize the impact advertisers had on the platform, which remains a huge source of revenue for the company, Mr. van Vonno added. The company’s mobile advertising revenue jumped 151% in the second quarter of this year from 2013 and accounted for more than 60% of its overall ad revenue. Just this week, Facebook launched Atlas, an advertising platform it bought from Microsoft last year, to improve the effectiveness of its ads.