Facebook Apologizes For Inconsiderate App

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I'm sure you've seen it by now. Facebook has been giving users a feature that lets them look back on their year, and share that experience with their friends. The feature selects what Facebook's algorithms deem to be the highlights of your year, and presents them in a nice little visual format.

Not all Facebook users have had such a great year, however. Some of these users don't necessarily want to revisit the year. In fact, the algorithms have acted in somewhat bad taste in some cases.

One man, who lost his daughter to brain cancer earlier this year, has drawn some attention after blogging about his experience with the feature. This led to an apology from Facebook. The Washington Post reported on web design consultant Eric Meyer's experience, and pointed to his blog post in which he shows the image he was greeted with in his News Feed, which showed his daughter's face. It didn't help that it was surrounded by images of people partying and having a good time. Meyer wrote:

Yes, my year looked like that. True enough. My year looked like the now-absent face of my little girl. It was still unkind to remind me so forcefully.

And I know, of course, that this is not a deliberate assault. This inadvertent algorithmic cruelty is the result of code that works in the overwhelming majority of cases, reminding people of the awesomeness of their years, showing them selfies at a party or whale spouts from sailing boats or the marina outside their vacation house.

But for those of us who lived through the death of loved ones, or spent extended time in the hospital, or were hit by divorce or losing a job or any one of a hundred crises, we might not want another look at this past year.

The Post shared comment from the company:

Jonathan Gheller, the product manager for Facebook's "Year in Review" app said he has reached out to Meyer and is personally very sorry for the pain the preview feature caused Meyer.

"[The app] was awesome for a lot of people, but clearly in this case we brought him grief rather than joy," he told the Post. The team behind the app is considering ways to improve it for next time and will take Meyer's concerns into account, he said, although he did not comment on if they would follow Meyer's specific suggestions. "It's valuable feedback," Gheller said. "We can do better -- I'm very grateful he took the time in his grief to write the blog post."

This isn't the first time this year Facebook has drawn some negative press for emotion-related issue. Earlier in the year, the company drew fire for an experiment it ran a couple years prior, in which it controlled the amount of positive and negative posts.

Image via Facebook

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.