Facebook's announcement — establishing guidelines, review processes, training and enhanced transparency for research projects — marks another milestone in the emergence of data ethics as a crucial component of corporate governance programs.
With the proliferation of personal data generated from smartphones, apps, social networks and ubiquitous sensors, companies have come under increasing pressure to put in place internal institutional review processes more befitting of academic philosophy departments than corporate boardrooms.
Facebook's move came on the heels of a wave of negative public reaction to the publication of a research paper documenting a large-scale experiment conducted on its user base. In the experiment, researchers sought to learn the effects on users' sentiments of tweaking the dosage of positive or negative comments on their News Feeds. Critics viewed the exercise as a real life experiment on human emotions, perhaps requiring clearance by human subject and institutional review boards (IRBs), such as those operating in academic and government institutions.
Read the full piece at The Hill.