This week’s headline story: Facebook’s Controversial Experiment
Facebook is in hot water once again over privacy issues. A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Facebook and Cornell University revealed that Facebook utilized nearly 700.000 of its users as unwitting Guinea pigs in a lab experiment. Facebook withheld positive posts from some user, and negative posts from others to show that users are emotionally impacted by the types of posts they read. Users exposed to predominantly negative posts often become negative in their own outlook while those exposed to mostly positive posts are likely to assume a positive outlook – something the paper refers to as an “emotional contagion.”
Some Facebook users may not realize that Facebook routinely applies filters to the newsfeed, highlighting posts that Facebook feels the user is most interested in seeing. Facebook’s filter technology is called “Edgerank.” Just as Google has an algorithm to filter search results, Facebook uses the Edgerank algorithm to filter posts. While Edgerank can provide a convenience to the user – displaying posts of highest interest, it can also provide value to Facebook, manipulating user sentiment and learning about user interests for ad placement. Facebook’s Terms of Service, which all users agree to when they receive a Facebook account, states that Facebook can utilize user data for “internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.”
While most of us have gotten used to being snooped on for the purpose of advertising, some users feel Facebook has overstepped its authority in manipulating its user’s moods for the sake of academic research. Academic Research with human subjects is generally governed by strict ethical standards, including the informed consent of the people who are studied. While many are outraged over Facebook’s behavior not many expect the outrage to have any lasting impact on Facebook’s future behavior.
- Refriending Facebook [MIT Tech Review]
- Jaron Lanier on Lack of Transparency in Facebook Study [NYTimes]
- Emotional Backlash Unlikely to Unsettle Facebook [Ecommerce Times]
- Facebook’s ‘Social Experiment’ Triggers Public Outcry [NewsFactor]
- Sandberg: Emotion Study ‘Poorly Communicated’ [NewsFactor]
- Facebook’s Emotion Study Follows Efforts on Voting and Organ Donation [MIT Tech Review]
and elsewhere in Tech News.
- Experts Say Four Threats Put Internet Freedom at Risk [NewsFactor]
A Pew Research Center survey of tech experts has identified four key threats to Internet Freedom: (1) the efforts by nation-states to maintain political control by filtering, blocking or segmenting the Internet, (2) erosion of trust stemming from government and corporate surveillance, (3) efforts by corporations to further commercialize the online world, and (4) attempts by individuals to filter their own online exposure to combat information overload. One positive result from the survey is the prediction that, “the trend towards making information more widely and easily reached, consumed, modified, and redistributed is likely to continue through 2025.”
- IBM: Commercial Nanotube Transistors Are Coming Soon [Technology Review]
Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors on a processor doubles approximately every two years, essentially doubling the processing speed. However, with today’s silicon transistors featuring components as tiny as 14 nanometers, many have warned that silicon is near the limits of its capabilities. Enter nanotube transistors to save the day! IBM has announced that a new generation of transistors built from carbon nanotubes, only 1.4 nanometers wide, will provide four times the performance of today’s silicon processor by 2020.
- More jobs in companies that employ robots [RobotEnomics]
Contrary to expectations, the introduction of robots to factories and warehouses has not cost any humans their jobs. Research shows 76 companies that implemented industrial or factory/warehouse robots actually increased the number of employees over the last 3 years. While robots may not be the villains they’ve been made out d to be, software automation HAS displaced many professionals in banks, insurance companies, travel agencies, retail, and other service industries. And yet the same technology that displaced these professionals has created a huge demand for professionals in the technology sector.
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