A policy introduced in September 2011 as part of a transparency drive didn’t mention ‘research’ until four months after the notorious study
Facebook changed its terms and conditions to allow data to be used for research after it had used data for research, it has been shown.
A clause granting Facebook the right to use information about its customers “for internal operations, including … research” was onlyadded to its data use policy in May 2012, four months after it performed experiments on hundreds of thousands of users aimed at seeing whether it could affect their emotions.
In a section titled “how we use the information we receive”, the company gives examples of ways it “may use the information we receive about you”.
The version of the document in force in January 2012, when the wide-ranging experiments were performed, said Facebook would use information:
… as part of our efforts to keep Facebook safe and secure; to provide you with location features and services, like telling you and your friends when something is going on nearby; to measure or understand the effectiveness of ads you and others see; to make suggestions to you and other users on Facebook, such as: suggesting that your friend use our contact importer because you found friends using it, suggesting that another user add you as a friend because the user imported the same email address as you did, or suggesting that your friend tag you in a picture they have uploaded with you in it.
The examples given are not intended to be a comprehensive listing of all the ways Facebook uses users’ data, but the company describes the policy as “one important way we try to provide people with transparency into our operations.”
The May 2012 alterations to the policy were made following an audit of the company by the Irish Data Protection Commission, which forced thecompany to stop indefinitely holding users’ advertising data. Facebook’s European office is based in Ireland.
In the , the company had also just settled a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission, after it was accused of “unfair and deceptive” privacy practices.
A Facebook spokeswoman told the Guardian that “when someone signs up for Facebook, we’ve always asked permission to use their information to provide and enhance the services we offer. To suggest we conducted any corporate research without permission is complete fiction.
• Facebook told to stop indefinitely holding users’ advertising data