Facebook falls foul of ICO

George OrwellYesterday Facebook announced the results of a psychological experiment into human behaviour to find if Facebook could alter the emotional state of its users and prompt them to post either more positive or negative content.

It was all fairly tame stuff, but it did raise the eyebrows of the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

It is concerned that Facebook might have broken data protection laws when it allowed researchers to conduct a psychological experiment on 700,000 unwitting users in 2012 users of the social network.

The ICO monitors how personal data is used and has the power to force organizations to change their policies and levy fines of up to £500,000 pounds ($839,500).

Facebook said that it could do what it liked with the 700,000 because they had signed an terms of use agreement when they joined.  Of course they had not read it, but they had signed it.
It is not clear what part of UK data protection laws Facebook might have broken, but it does seem that if there is not a clause which says you cannot submit the personal data of your customers to scientific experimentation, there should be.