Facebook Data Testing: Sorry, not sorry

A/B testing is the best way to find out what your customers respond to in online marketing. Whether it’s on the site or email messaging, A/B testing is a window into user response.

This is no secret; major brands and companies engage in online testing. Most of the time, it’s so seamless that people don’t even realize they are being tested. But when the truth comes out and they are part of an experiment, the response can make headlines.

Recently, Facebook studied the impact of positive and negative posts in January 2012, looking for connections in how those posts affected users’ reactions and posts. It found that emotional states can be transferred on Facebook by these posts. Friends of someone who posted something positive would post something positive on their own feeds, and vice versa.

The right to bear data

But, results aside, people are up in arms about how Facebook collected this data. Researchers thought the terms and conditions all Facebook users agreed to was enough consent, and they took it from there.

Data scientists at Facebook then filtered posts included in the experiment using a data-parsing system, and did not review any of the posts themselves.

“Sorry, not sorry.” -Facebook

For many people outside the marketing world, this concept of A/B testing and data mining may have taken them by surprise. In reality, it’s everywhere. Even in presidential elections.

Organizations have seen what testing can do for revenue growth and conversion; it’s all about finding what works in marketing.

If I heard the word “experiment” five years ago, I would have an image of a mad scientist, or something more sinister, manipulating people and using unethical means to get the results they wanted.

Now, it’s a part of life and corporate culture. And it’s definitely a good thing.

In my opinion, Facebook did nothing wrong. Users agree to these sorts of things. With information about the NSA and Edward Snowden leaks becoming common knowledge, I’m surprised people even had a reaction of shock that Facebook would test and use data to learn more about its audience.

For those who post their entire lives, and childrens’  lives, on social media, maybe rethink your actions if you are that concerned about your online privacy. You don’t necessarily have the right to privacy if you agree to terms and conditions that allow your data to be used for other purposes.

For now, Facebook will likely continue its testing efforts.


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