Facebook had conducted a study in January 2012 to see how the placement of positive or negative words in the news feeds of users affected their status updates.

Facebook, whose secret psychological experiment has stirred a global debate on privacy and protection of user data, on Wednesday said it was just like any other product testing and was aimed at improving the quality of service for users.  The company’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, who is on a five-day visit to India added that Facebook “communicated really badly on this (experiment) issue.”

 The social networking giant had conducted a study in January 2012 to see how the placement of positive or negative words in the news feeds of users affected their status updates. The about 7,00,000 users who were part of the experiment were not aware that their timelines had been manipulated.

 “There is a lot to this (user privacy and users data) but to talk about this specific issue, it was a one week study a long time ago and it was like any product... testing different aspects of the product so that we can provide a better newsfeed experience,” Ms. Sandberg said.

 She added, “This was an experiment done for one week, this was communicated terribly and for that communication, we have apologised. This is part of the ongoing research that companies do to test different products.”

 Ms. Sandberg, who is known around the world for her stance on women empowerment, was speaking here at a function organised by FICCI Ladies Organisation.

 Talking about India as a market, she said, “India is our second-largest market with over 100 million users. It has a lot of potential. The U.S. is our largest market, but in terms of people on our network, there is a huge opportunity for us.”

She also spoke on women’s equality. “No country reaches its full potential unless and until the potential of its women population is tapped properly. Gender inequality is not a problem only in India and is not only of a particular culture but it is across cultures. We have it in India as well as in America,” she said.