U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) is asking a federal agency to look into Facebook's recent experiment on 700,000 users studying the emotional impact of manipulating their news feeds.
Warner asked the Federal Trade Commission, in a letter he sent Wednesday, to explore the potential ramifications of the experiment, and to consider questions about what, if any, oversight would be appropriate for behavioral studies conducted by social media platforms.
Warner also asked for an opinion on whether best practices should be developed and enforced by the industry, or by the FTC.“I come from the technology world, and I understand that social media companies are looking for ways to extract value from the information willingly provided by their huge customer base,” Warner said in a news release.
“I don’t know if Facebook’s manipulation of users’ news feeds was appropriate or not," he said. "But I think many consumers were surprised to learn they had given permission by agreeing to Facebook’s terms of service. And I think the industry could benefit from a conversation about what are the appropriate rules of the road going forward.”
Warner has called for protecting consumers in the digital economy, his office points out. Yesterday, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence included Warner's amendment to produce a comprehensive report of the threat from cyberattacks and cybercrime in their bipartisan cybersecurity package.
Earlier this year, Sen. Warner chaired a Senate Banking subcommittee hearing on the recent massive credit and debit card security breaches impacting major retailers like Target and Neiman Marcus and millions of American consumers. He also successfully pushed retailers to establish an information sharing platform to better coordinate with law enforcement agencies and partners in the financial services sector to more efficiently combat cybersecurity threats, in the wake of the Target data breach.