Facebook secretly paid teens to access their messages, browsing history
Once again, Facebook is making headlines for its shady data collection practices. The company, according to a recent revelation by TechCrunch, has been paying teens and adults to install an app capable of mining their private data. It has been running this covert program for the past three years through various beta testing services. Here's all about it.
Facebook Research VPN app for mining phone and web activities
Facebook employed beta testing services like Applause, BetaBound, and uTest to target users aged between 13 to 35 years. The services got the participants to install a VPN app called 'Facebook Research' on their Android and iOS devices and asked them to carry on with their regular phone usage. Following this, the installed app gave Facebook access to their phone and web activities.
Services paid users $20 per month
The beta testing services promised the targets as much as $20 per month for having the app installed while continuing with the regular usage of their Android or iOS device. Notably, they did not mention Facebook's involvement until the app was installed.
Facebook Research mined intimate data including messages
Once installed, the Research app gives Facebook root access to network traffic, allowing the company to gain continuous insights into users' smartphone activities. In fact, TechCrunch found it has the ability to mine "private messages in social media apps, chats from instant messaging apps - including photos/videos sent to others, emails, web searches, web browsing activity, and even ongoing location information".
App even takes screenshots of Amazon order history
Also, the app in question even asked the users to take screenshots of their Amazon order history, which further shows how far Facebook is willing to go to mine their users' personal data and learn about their preferences, likes, and dislikes for targeted advertising.
Facebook confirmed the existence of the program
Facebook has not issued a statement, but speaking to TechCrunch, a spokesperson from the company admitted about the existence of the program aimed at gathering usage data. Notably, just last year, the company drew flak for a similar app; it was banned by Apple and later pulled from the App Store. Now, this surveillance program could further brew tensions between Apple and Facebook.Share this timeline