A new report has found out that Facebook has been paying volunteers to collect their personal data from the last three years. According to the report from TechCrunch, the company has been paying users from age 13 to 25 as much as $20 a month in exchange for installing an app called Facebook Research on iOS and Android devices. The app records users all phone and web activity and sends it back to Facebook. Facebook confirmed that they do use this research to TechCrunch.
Facebook has been using research to collect user data from a long time. Previously Facebook was using the Onavo Protect, a VPN service it acquired in 2013. The collect data was very valuable for Facebook as it helped the company in addressing up-and-coming rivals, then acquiring or duplicating them. Facebook removed that app from the App Store after Apple complained that it violated App Store’s guidelines on data collection.
The Facebook Research App requires the user to install a custom root certificate that allows Facebook to view users’ private messages, emails, web searches, and browsing activity. It also asks users to take screenshots of their Amazon order history and send it back to Facebook.
A Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch that the program doesn’t violate Apple’s policies but couldn’t explain how, as the app violates Apple’s policies for developers using enterprise certificates to grant root access to iPhones. If Facebook found out that it actually is violating its policies it could move to block the app’s use of enterprise certificates.
The conclusion is that Facebook is scarfing the users’ personal data for just $20 a month. (For brief details please read TechCrunch’s report mentioned above).