Facebook reportedly paying teens to install VPN app that spies on them

Facebook reportedly asserted that it was working on a research program to learn about users smartphone habits and usage to help serve better.

  • Published: January 30, 2019 10:46 AM IST
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Another day, another story on Facebook’s approach to user privacy. The popular social media network continues to make headlines. The latest one is that the company has been reportedly paying some users to get access to their data as part of a research project since 2016.

TechCrunch reported that in exchange for money, Facebook asked users to install “Facebook Research” VPN app, giving the company access to phone and web activity. The company has been reportedly offering $20 per month and referral fees to users between the ages of 13 and 35.

“Facebook admitted to TechCrunch it was running the Research program to gather data on usage habits, and it has no plans to stop,” the cited source stated. In exchange for the money, Facebook gets the access to check web searches, location information, private messages in social media apps, and other data, Guardian Mobile Firewall security specialist Will Strafach told the cited source.

In addition, in order to get paid, a user had to keep the VPN running after installing the app. Users are also reportedly asked to screenshot their Amazon orders page. The report further stated that “this data could potentially help Facebook tie browsing habits and usage of other apps with purchase preferences and behavior.” Furthermore, this app seems to be similar to Facebook’s ‘Onavo Protect‘ app that was banned by Apple for violating privacy rules, the report mentioned. The app was later removed in August. The company confirmed to the cited source that it was working on a research program to learn about users smartphone habits and usage.

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“Like many companies, we invite people to participate in research that helps us identify things we can be doing better,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “Since this research is aimed at helping Facebook understand how people use their mobile devices, we’ve provided extensive information about the type of data we collect and how they can participate. We don’t share this information with others and people can stop participating at any time.”

  • Published Date: January 30, 2019 10:46 AM IST