Facebook has been paying users $20 a month to install an app which monitors their phone and web activity and sends it back to the social media giant, a report has revealed. The app may run afoul of Apple’s privacy guidelines.
Launched in 2016, the “research app,” first uncovered by TechCrunch, allows Facebook to continuously collect a user’s private data, including chats from instant messaging apps, photos and videos, emails, web browsing activity, and more.
Aimed at people aged 13 to 25, the app, according to Facebook, is designed to study mobile usage habits. Users were also asked to take screenshots of their Amazon order history page.
While the app is voluntarily downloaded and installed in exchange for upwards of $20 a month, critics have noted that the program closely resembles a similar Facebook-owned app, Onavo, which gave the company undisclosed access to sensitive user data. Facebook was later forced to remove Onavo from Apple’s App Store, due to violations with Apple’s data collection policies.
TechCrunch also reported that Facebook took steps to conceal its involvement in the “research” project, opting to contract outside companies to promote and find recruits for a “paid social media research study.” Users are only informed that the app is called “Facebook Research” until just before they install the program.
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