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Facebook is being investigated by ICO over emotion experiment

Facebook is to face scrutiny over its "emotional" news feed experiment, which caused a major media storm when it emerged at the start of the week.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is investigating whether the experiment, which was run by the social network and two American universities (Cornell and California), might have breached any aspects of UK data protection law.

The Guardian reports that a spokesman from the ICO noted that the action was still in its initial stages, and that it was too early to tell what part of the law Facebook might have broken. The Irish Data Protection Commissioner is also going to be contacted, because the social network's European HQ is in Dublin.

We'll just have to see if there's any serious knuckle-rapping, though if the blowback from Facebook's study thus far is anything to go by, the ICO will certainly want to be seen as taking the matter very seriously.

Facebook's experiment manipulated almost 700,000 user news feeds to show more negative or positive posts, to see if that had a contagious effect on the content of the user's own posts. This was back in 2012.

It's the fact that the social network tinkered with emotional reactions in such a way, and without any consent, which has caused such a storm (though as we've previously mentioned, Facebook is constantly tinkering with what's displayed in feeds to users – there just isn't normally a report published about it).

The long and short is that it's another nail in the coffin of distrust for the social network. In our poll earlier this week which asked "Have you lost trust in Facebook", 83 per cent of respondents admitted that yes, they had.