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Senator Asks FTC to Look Into Facebook Mood Experiment

Virginia senator asks FTC whether Facebook violated its 2012 privacy agreement with the government.

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Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia asked the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday to look into whether Facebook’s experiment on the ability to manipulate emotions on Facebook using the data of 700,000 unwitting users may have violated the company’s privacy agreement with the federal government.

“As the collection and analysis of ‘big data’ continues to increase and as it assumes a larger role in the business plans of Internet-based companies, it is appropriate that we consider questions about what, if any, oversight might be appropriate,” Warner said in a letter to the FTC.

Last week, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed an FTC complaint alleging that Facebook violated its 2012 consent order with the agency when it conducted the experiment.

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg has previously apologized for how the company communicated with users about the study.

Asked for comment on the senator’s letter, a Facebook spokesperson said: “It’s clear that people were upset by this study and we take responsibility for it. We want to do better in the future and are improving our process based on this feedback. The study was done with appropriate protections for people’s information and we are happy to answer any questions regulators may have.”

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