Zuckerberg & Co. Aren’t the First to Experiment on Users
The revelations that Facebook may be more like James Bond’s laughable criminal empire SPECTRE than previously suspected is being met with suspicion and even anger by many of its users. It’s worth pointing out, however, that Facebook’s actions, while unethical, are certainly not unique. Google, the emperor of the worldwide web, is known to have run at least 20,000 different experiments on user data over the last decade.
Despite the small tremor this news has sent throughout Facebook’s user-base, many in the know say that public knowledge of the experiments is actually a good thing. Some, like The New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo, think that this discovery could spur on truly valuable scientific studies, and, with a little luck, may also push companies to be more transparent when they’re using their customers as guinea pigs.
Shady Practices Aren’t Likely to Dissuade Users
Whether or not social experimentation on popular social media sites will prove to be beneficial to the world at large remains to be seen; however, for Facebook, Google, and other tech giants, it’s unlikely that treating users like samples in their Petri dishes will negatively affect their bottom lines. Quite simply, these are self-sustaining monsters. The average social media user spends between 2.4 to 3.8 hours plugged in to their favorite service each day. In a very real way, we can’t get along without social media. Between the games, playgrounds for the vain, and ability to stay connected to friends and family, users aren’t likely to give it all up, even if they are collectively treated as Frankenstein’s monster.