Those emotions you felt earlier this week when you found out Facebook possibly ran a psychological experiment on you are about to make their return. As has been pointed out, one of the researchers who ran the study was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense to look into the contagion of ideas.
When Facebook stopped working for a little while this past week, most blamed it on the site's usual hiccups. However, it was later revealed that it was due to a psychological experiment that the company conducted in order to learn about people's emotions on social media. Six hundred thousand users unwillingly fell subject to manipulated content on their personal news feeds in order to measure how it impacted their behavior.
The study received instant backlash the moment it was revealed, and at the time we didn't even know the full scope. The most disturbing part of the story turns out to be that it is connected to a Department of Defense study called the Minerva Initiative. The initiative funds universities to model the dynamics, risks, and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world.
This isn’t the first time Facebook dabbled in issues of privacy with its users. Facebook also provides user communications to the NSA’s PRISM program. Also, it is widely known that the government uses social networking sites such as Facebook to investigate the opinions people post on social media.
Essentially what is going on here is the federal government using social networking tools to get a better understanding of its citizens and whether or not someone can pose a threat. On the one hand, knowing a person's intentions may help us in the long run. However, how much is too much when it comes to such invasions of privacy?