As the Facebook empire grows and grows, the way in which the social network handles user data has become an important debate.

This week it was revealed that Facebook changed the content of users Facebook feed to collect data on how they responded. By manipulating users feeds to monitor their emotional response, has Facebook gone too far?

For the purposes of a psychological experiment, Facebook promoted either positive or negative posts on users Facebook feed. They then analysed how this affected the users own posts to see whether the types of stories made them feel more positive or negative. Many users were angered to learn that their feeds were changed, and their emotions manipulated without their knowledge.

Psychological experiments, especially social experiments such as this, are subject to vigorous ethical guidelines in terms of participants giving consent to take part, and a full debrief afterwards so the subject is aware of what they have taken part in and why. Facebook insists that consent is given when the user signs up to Facebook and that the experiment was in line with their data use policy – everyone who agrees the terms and conditions agrees to their data being used for “internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.”. But how many people would have agreed to these terms had they know exactly what they meant?

It also raises the question of how this research will affect the way Facebook conducts itself in future. The research found that users who saw positive news results went on to feel positive and happy. Will Facebook start using this to only show users positive stories to keep them happy, staying on Facebook, and more likely to engage with advertising?

With the announcement that Facebook will face an investigation by the ICO (Information Commissioners Office) as to whether it broke the law by conducting their research, Facebook practices are now firmly under the spotlight. Do you think Facebook gone too far by manipulating user data? Does this news tempt you to leave Facebook?