NEWS11 May 2017

Global NGOs urge Facebook to disclose psychological insights on teens

Legal News North America Privacy Youth

US – Public Citizen and a coalition of 25 NGOs have called on Facebook to release documents that describe how it has collected and analysed psychological information on its youngest users.

Teens phone crop

According to a story in The Australian newspaper, Facebook presented research to one of its advertisers that revealed it has collected sensitive data on young users’ emotions and ‘mood shifts'. It details how Facebook can analyse this data in real time to determine how young users are communicating emotion, as well as at which points during a typical week they are doing so. This was all done without users’ knowledge.

In their letter to the corporation, the groups expressed their concern over how this information might have been used or may be used in the future by marketers and others to take advantage of young people’s emotions.

“Because Facebook plays such a powerful role in the lives of teens, it must adopt a policy that respects and protects them,” said Dr. Kathryn Montgomery, professor of communication at American University and a consultant to the Center for Digital Democracy.

“This should include not only strong safeguards for its advertising and data practices, but also clear limits on the kinds of research it conducts for marketing purposes.

"Under no circumstances should marketers be using emotional states, stress levels, biometric information or other highly sensitive data to target users. And this should apply to both young people and adults.”