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Facebook ran a secret psychology experiment on 700,000 users

Facebook is no stranger to controversies over privacy concerns. That's why it is so important to regularly double-check your Facebook privacy settings.

But, it looks like that might not always be enough. Facebook apparently conducted a psychological study on nearly 700,000 users without their knowledge. That has led research professionals to speak out against the social media site for its unethical behavior.

The experiment hid certain elements from 689,003 peoples' news feed – about 0.04% of users, or 1 in 2,500 – over the course of one week in 2012. The experiment hid "a small percentage" of emotional words from peoples' news feeds, without their knowledge, to test what effect that had on the statuses or "Likes" that they then posted or reacted to.

The research found that Facebook users' emotions were reinforced by the posts they saw. The researchers called this "emotional contagion."

Facebook defended its study by saying it cares about Facebook's emotional impact on users. The company denies wrongdoing. Even so, I think that's a pretty big invasion of privacy, and other researchers agree.

Max Masnick, a researcher with a doctorate in epidemiology who says of his work that "I do human-subjects research every day", says that the structure of the experiment means there was no informed consent - a key element of any studies on humans.

Sadly, there is no Facebook security setting that lets you opt out of secret psychological experiments. Hopefully, the public outrage over this study will stop Facebook from doing this again in the future.

Either way, it's obvious that Facebook can't keep itself out of the headlines. The good news is that it's not always for serious invasions of privacy. In fact, Facebook is actually fighting to keep your data out of government hands. The company is going toe-to-toe with the Manhattan district attorney to prevent hundreds of profiles from being turned over to authorities.

Facebook might be able to find out about you through experimenting on your profile, but so can you! Click here to take a fun quiz to find out what your Facebook page says about your personality.

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