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Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg admitted on Wednesday that her company that runs the world's most popular social media network might have erred in a psychological experiment for market research that has run foul of the British regulator of information.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) in the UK is investigating whether Facebook Inc broke data protection laws when it allowed researchers to conduct a psychological experiment.
"We communicated badly on the issue," Sandberg told a group of journalists in New Delhi, but defended Facebook's policy on data privacy.
"With every new technology, there is always concer," she said, adding that Facebook's priority for privacy was shown in the way it made people choose the setting of each post based on how far they would want it to go by allowing them to set it only for friends or to progressively wider circles.
Facebook's psychological experiment on nearly 700,000 unwitting users in 2012 has caused a social-media furor. The experiment was to find if Facebook could alter the emotional state of its users and prompt them to post either more positive or negative content.
It did this by making changes to the 'newsfeed' seen by selected users, and measuring whether seeing material with a different emotional tenor affected their own behaviour on the platform.
The ICO monitors how personal data is used. It can force companies to change their policies and levy fines of up to 500,000 pounds. (Rs. 5 crore)