Over the summer, news broke that Facebook had conducted an experiment on its users: the social media site manipulated users' newsfeeds and monitored responses to positive and negative posts. (Read more here.) When users found out, there was an outcry, but there have been no legal repercussions. Now, two law professors at University of Maryland allege that the experiment broke the law.
On September 23, the professors sent a letter to Maryland's attorney general that claimed Facebook and OkCupid violated the law. (OkCupid, a dating site, also conducted a similar experiment.) The professors' letter of allegations states that there are two procedures that these experiments failed to adhere to, which violates Maryland state law.
The first procedure that Facebook and OkCupid failed to follow was one that requires researchers to get consent from informed subjects prior to the experiment. The second is that the companies also failed to have their research vetted by an "institutional review board" beforehand. Because of these violations, they claim, Facebook and OkCupid acted illegally.
This opens the door for larger discussions on research vs. marketing, online company regulations and more. Read more about these issues and the law professors' explanation here.