Facebook deliberately showed more or fewer negative or positive posts to nearly 700,000 users over the course of a week in January of 2012 in order to study emotional transference online. When people found out, they were upset. Microsoft researcher and social media scholar danah boyd explains that this outrage is more than the feeling that Facebook did something unethical or sociopathic; it's a reaction to the power of big data that is accruing all around us.
boyd unpacks this idea and offers some suggestions. "More than anything, I want to see users have the ability to meaningfully influence what’s being done with their data and I’d love to see a way for their voices to be represented in these processes," she writes. "I’m glad this study has prompted an intense debate among scholars and the public, but I fear it’s turned into a simplistic attack on Facebook over this particular study, rather than a nuanced debate over how we create meaningful ethical oversight in research and practice."