Dr. Robert Klitzman, director of the M.S. in Bioethics program at Columbia University, asserts that Facebook's mood study violated ethics.
The 2012 Facebook study tested whether users who saw more positive posts in their feeds would experience more positive emotions and, in turn, publish additional positive posts. Moreover, would negative posts breed negative moods and additional negative posts? The study found that, yes, "emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions."
On CNN.com, Dr. Klitzman wrote of the study, "This experiment is scandalous and violates accepted research ethics."
Facebook said that users consented to such uses of their data when they agreed to the social networking site's terms and conditions.
However, in a live video interview for HuffPost Live, Dr. Klitzman said, "The standard for doing research on human beings throughout the world is that there be adequate informed consent. [This includes] telling people what the purpose of the experiment is, that they're going to be in an experiment, to describe what's involved, to give them a choice if they want to be in it, and to tell them what some of the risks are," he said. "None of those things were done in this case."
He continued, "In addition...there could be minors involved [in the Facebook study], and I should add that Cornell University" – with which two of the researchers were affiliated – "should also, I think, have paid a little more closer attention to what was going on."
On CNN.com, he wrote, "Good experiments benefit society. But in their zeal to conduct research, some social scientists overlook how their studies may impinge on people's rights. As the amount of research on humans continues to grow, more violations will probably occur."
On HuffPost Live, he said, "The potential scientific value of an experiment never trumps human rights."