How to stop Facebook experimenting on you

Facebook's in the firing line this week for running psychological experiments on 689,000 of its users back in 2012. Sounds scary, right? Also see: 13 best Facebook tips and tricks 

Well, not really. Did Facebook hit you with an electric shock for not winning a round of SongPop? Did it train you to salivate uncontrollably upon arrival of a new status update? Did it condition you to react with irrational fear at the sight of an emoticon? Oh no, it tried to make you grumpy. Or happy. (I wonder how many people are complaining about the latter.) Follow PC Advisor on Facebook.

So what did Facebook do, exactly? In partnership with two US universities it took the posts that were already on your news feed, then filtered out certain posts over the space of a week to subject you to a largely positive- or negative experience. It then looked for a link between the mood of the statuses of your friends and those of your own. 

Was it worth the effort? Probably not, especially given the backlash. And it has already apologised, although it said there was no unnecessary collection of people's data. It didn't apologise for playing with your emotions.

(Facebook can be pretty annoying at the best of times, to be fair. Here's how to stop Facebook autoplaying video and ads on desktop and iPhone.) 

Fact is, I don't need Facebook to turn me into a stroppy cow. And my mood swings are pretty much a given if those around me are also grumpy. But if my news feed is that depressing I can choose to simply not log on. Or surround myself with happier people. 

So what's the real problem here? Is it that Facebook knows what side of bed you've got out of, or is it that it could also know whose bed you got out of, what colour are your sheets, what time you went to bed? Or is it that you fear it will someday condition you to sleep in only a certain type of bed, and even tell you what to dream? 

Labour MP Jim Sheridan told The Guardian: “They are manipulating material from people’s personal lives and I am worried about the ability of Facebook and others to manipulate people’s thoughts in politics or other areas. If people are being thought-controlled in this kind of way there needs to be protection and they at least need to know about it.” 

Well, yes, that would be scary. But there's a bit of a jump between playing with our emotions and convincing us to vote (or to not vote) Labour. And either way, do people really not think they are seeing Facebook's view of their world when they log in? 

Truth is, when we sign up to Facebook we allow it to do what we want with our data, and we accept that it will put what it wants us to see on our news feed - whether that's adverts about Folic acid because we're 'at that age' and female, hammering us with paid posts or switching between Top stories and Most recent depending on its mood.  

The only surefire way to prevent Facebook scooping up your data and making assumptions on it, and in turn using your activity to conduct psychological experiments, is to deactivate your Facebook account 

Do that, though, and there's no more Facebook stalking, photo nosing and, oh, chatting to your friends.

Sticking with Facebook? Here's how to get Facebook Slingshot in the UK.

Follow Marie Brewis on Twitter.