According to a report by TechCrunch Facebook has been secretly paying users of age 13 to 35 as much as $20 per month plus referral fees for installing Facebook Research app on their iOS or Android devices.
The app is found to be capable of obtaining information not limited to contents of private messages in social media and chats from instant messaging apps, photos, videos, emails, web browsing activity, all the apps that are stored on your phone and the data in them, apps that you frequently use (even when the app uses encryption technique), location history of where the owner had physically been, data usage and screenshots of their Amazon order history page
Facebook is said to be working with beta testing services Applause, BetaBound, and uTest via ads on Instagram, Telegram, Facebook,Snapchat, to recruit participants.
“By installing the software, you’re giving our client permission to collect data from your phone that will help them understand how you browse the internet, and how you use the features in the apps you’ve installed . . . This means you’re letting our client collect information such as which apps are on your phone, how and when you use them, data about your activities and content within those apps, as well as how other people interact with you or your content within those apps. You are also letting our client collect information about your internet browsing activity (including the websites you visit and data that is exchanged between your device and those websites) and your use of other online services. There are some instances when our client will collect this information even where the app uses encryption, or from within secure browser sessions.” Reads part of terms
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that it was using the initiative to learn how people use their phones and other platforms.
In a statement a spokesperson for the company said:
“Key facts about this market research program are being ignored. Despite early reports, there was nothing ‘secret’ about this; it was literally called the Facebook Research App. It wasn’t ‘spying’ as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear on-boarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate. Finally, less than 5 percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens. All of them with signed parental consent forms.”
The VPN is reportedly similar to Facebook’s Onavo Protect app that was pulled from the Apple App Store last year for privacy violations.
Facebook has since stated that they will be removing the app from Apple’s App Store, but it will continue to remain on Android.