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Facebook launches controversial 'Study' app that pays users to let it track their phone activity

James Pero For Dailymail.Com | 14 Days

Facebook will now pay you to hand its market researchers otherwise out-of-reach data on what you do on your phone.

In a new program it announced this week, called 'Facebook Study,' the company says it will compensate users in exchange for an array of data points about exactly how and when they use apps their phones.

That data will include which apps are installed on a users phone, the amount of time spent using those apps, where the user is located, what device they're using and the type of network, as well as unprecedented, detailed insight into exactly which features are being used within those apps.

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'Facebook Study' is the follow-up to a previous and controversial market research program run by the company. Users will be paid to hand over data on their app usage

WHAT IS FACEBOOK STUDY? A new market research program by Facebook will pay users to collect data on their app usage. Here's some of the data it collects: What apps are installed on a participant’s phone

The amount of time spent using those apps

Participant’s country, device and network type

App activity names, which may show us the names of app features participants are using

How much users will be compensated is unclear, but participants must be 18 years or older. Facebook says it won't sell data gleaned from the program to third parties and it won't collect personal info on passwords, user ID, etc.

It's not yet clear how much users will be paid for letting the company access their app data.

Mail Online has reached out to Facebook for comment.

'Earlier this year, we announced that we’d be shifting our focus to reward-based market research programs, which means that all research participants are compensated,' said the company in a public statement.

Previously, Facebook came under fire for running a research app, dubbed 'Onavo VPN,' which harvested data from some users as young as 13 years old.

Users who are accepted into Study will be able to review the data being collected by Facebook and can opt out at any time.

The company says it will not harvest data on passwords, user ID's, pictures, videos, or other content within a user's apps.

It has also promised not to sell the data gleaned from Study to third parties or use it to target ads.

Instead, Facebook says it is 'collecting the minimum amount of information needed to help us build better products.'

Facebook was forced to remove the Onavo VPN app from Apple's App Store after it was found to be collecting a range of data on users' activity.

After downloading the app, it showed a warning saying downloading the app would 'allow any app from this enterprise developer' to be used on your iPhone and may allow access to your data.'

But what it didn't explicitly say was that the app would collect all of their phone and website activity.

In addition, it would track what apps they downloaded, when they used them and what they do on them.

Study has been unveiled as Facebook attempts to mitigate a number of privacy-related scandals, many of which have taken place over the last several months.

As originally reported by Tech Crunch, that data included in-app private messages, chats from instant messaging apps, including photos/videos, emails, web searches, web browsing activity, and location information gleaned by accessing the feeds of location tracking apps installed on participants phones.

In addition to circumventing Apple's fairly strict rules on the practices of apps offered through its App Store, the program was also derided for its marketing to teens ages 13 to 17.

Study is currently only available to Facebook users ages 18 and up who live in the US and India.

Participants' ages will be verified through their Facebook pages and secondarily by setting up a PayPal account through which which they will receive compensation, according to The Verge.

To sign up for PayPal, users are also required to be ages 18 and up.

It's unclear how, if at all, a slew of recent privacy-related scandals will affect users willingness to sign up for Study.

In the past several months alone, Facebook has come under fire for insecurely storing hundreds of millions of users' passwords in plaintext format as well as using phone numbers provided for two-factor authentication for marketing, advertising, and creating searchable databases of users by phone number.

On top of that, it is still facing the consequences of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which erupted in March and resulted in some 87 million users' data being harvested and shared with the Trump-affiliated campaign research firm.



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