Facebook COO: Sorry you got so upset when we deliberately upset you

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During the week of January 11 to January 18, 2012, Facebook's ( FB ) Data Science Team manipulated the emotions of 689,003 users by classifying certain posts as happy or sad and then tilting the amount of happy or sad posts that users saw in the their newsfeeds so that they could study whether users responded with similarly happy or sad posts. They concluded that yes, people did. They described the discovery as "evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks." Users, and some in the media have responded negatively to the idea of being experimented on by Facebook, but every user involved accepted Facebook's Data Use Policy , which seems to give Facebook the right to manipulate and experiment however it pleases. Minors were not excluded from the study, nor were users suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, leprosy… No one at all , in other words.

Here's a fair question: how big a deal is this?

That's not a question I'm inclined to try to answer, though it is beyond doubt that the story is proving highly resonant. Though the news broke five days ago, there seem to be as many stories and opinion pieces about it today as on any day yet. Also, the Electronic Privacy Information Center announced today that it had filed an FTC complaint against Facebook over the issue.

Here's another fair question: what's the worst apology every given by a corporate executive?

Was it this, from Yoichiro Kaizaki of Bridgestone/Firestone, who, after being forced to recall 6.5 million tires that had been blamed for up to 250 deaths and 3,000 injuries, said, "I apologize to all shareholders for making you worried."

Or was it this more recent, career killing apology from Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, who said, following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, "I'm sorry. We're sorry for the massive disruption it's caused their lives. There's no one who wants this over more than I do. I'd like my life back."

Or perhaps this contemporary gem from Chip Wilson, founder of Lululemon, who found himself needing to apologize for insinuating the problem of transparency in some Lululemon yoga pants was caused by the bodies of certain women, (you know the ones…). In addition to his utter failure to apologize to the women in question, this one is memorable for the scowl, the body language, and sharp inhalations of breath that seem to indicate not merely the absence of regret, but the presence of barely concealed rage. (Enough of my chatter. Either you watch this, or you just can't know…)

Clearly, the competition in this category is fierce. Still, I believe we may have a new champion. Read on…


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This article was originally published on MarketIntelligeneCenter.com



The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc.



This article appears in: Investing , Technology

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