Home Articles How Facebook Snooped on Users using Defunct Research App

How Facebook Snooped on Users using Defunct Research App


According to a recent report, Facebook has secretly collected data of several users through its banned research app. Read on to know more about it…

Earlier this year, Apple banned a Facebook ‘research app’ from App Store. Well, the reason for banning this now-defunct app is that Facebook secretly collected personal and sensitive device data of some 187,000 users in total, of which, 156,000 were Indians.

It was reported that Facebook app paid users $20 a month to give the social media site access to how they use their phones. According to a report — the Facebook app, which in January Apple blocked Facebook from offering to iPhone users, collected sensitive device data from several users.

According to report by TechCrunch — in a letter to Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Facebook reportedly said it had collected data on 31,000 users in the US, 4,300 of whom were teenagers. The rest of the data came from users in India.

Damage Control
Though, defending the company, a Facebook spokesperson said that they did not review all of the data and what they obtained from the research app has now been deleted.

“We did not review all of the data to determine whether it contained health or financial data,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We have deleted all user-level market insights data that was collected from the Facebook Research app, which would include any health or financial data that may have existed.”

Paid Research
Earlier this year, it was found that Facebook (and also Google) was using Apple-issued enterprise developer certificates for tracking the web-browsing habits of teenagers and adults. These certificates are designed to let businesses have deep controls over iPhones, with the potential to remotely install apps, monitor app usage, and access, and delete data owned by a business on an iPhone. Apple designed the program for organisations whose staff use iPhones for official duties, where privacy needs are different from phones for personal use.

Instead, Facebook was found to be paying users as young as 13 years old to install an app called Facebook Research, which was linked to this certificate program. Additionally, it was also found that in exchange for downloading this app’s VPN, Facebook was paying these teens off with $20 a month in the name of paid research.

After Effects
After knowing the paid research program of Facebook, Apple banned the app by revoking Facebook’s enterprise developer certificate. This ban affected Facebook internally as well. The same certificate that authenticated the Facebook Research app was also used in the key internal Facebook apps that the company’s thousands of employees used every day.

This week, Facebook re-launched the app on Google Play Store and it calls it Study. Facebook said this time around it will be more transparent in the way it obtains data. Obviously, with Facebook’s patchy track record, you might have some questions before joining the ‘Study’ program.


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