Facebook paid 13-year-olds for access to all their internet data

Facebook paid 13-year-olds for access to all their internet data

Teenagers as young as 13 are being paid $20 (£15) a month by Facebook to allow the company to access all their phone and web activity, including internet searches, private messages, emails, location and even what items they order on Amazon.

The Facebook Research VPN, however, wasn't a public app but a "employee app".

As news of the activity came to light, Facebook has announced that the program (sometimes referred to as Project Atlas) is being terminated on iOS, but it seems that it will be continuing on Android. The app was previously kicked out of the official App Store for breaking Apple's rules on privacy: Facebook had to use the cert to skirt Cupertino's ban.

Facebook and privacy. It's a topic that is constantly in circulation in the news and now the popular social media site is back in the spotlight following a recent report that compromised the policies of Apple. The app requires "participants" to install Root Certificate, which grants Facebook full rights to practically every little piece of information you have on your phone, including prized access to usage data about third party apps.

Finally, less than five percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens.

"Despite early reports, there was nothing "secret" about this; it was literally called the Facebook Research App".

"It wasn't 'spying" as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear on-boarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate.

It's very likely that many users of the app don't understand fully the permissions they gave Facebook.

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When Apple banned its Onavo VPN app from its App Store last summer, Facebook took repackaged the app, named it "Facebook Research" and offered it for download through three app beta testing services, TechCrunch has discovered.

However, the report explains that the company tried to hide the fact that it's a Facebook app, at least until the user or their parents signed up for it.

Speciically, Facebook's customers - in this case, the app users - should, according to the policy, not have access to the app at all as its use is meant for employees only "and only in conjunction with Your Internal Use Applications for the goal of developing and testing". The sign-up page for the Facebook Research program administered by Applause doesn't mention Facebook, but seeks users "Age: 13-35 (parental consent required for ages 13-17)", writes TechCrunch.

Facebook said it was pulling its app in response to criticism.

But Will Strafach, the developer of Guardian Protect, an iOS firewall (unrelated to the Guardian newspaper), described the move on Twitter as "the most defiant behaviour I have ever seen by an App Store developer ..."

Facebook has essentially done an end-run around Apple's App Store, which banned a Facebook VPN app called Onavo Protect a year ago that also gathered similar data.

That's how Facebook sneaked through Apple's privacy defenses.

"There are some instances when our client will collect this information even where the app uses encryption, or from within secure browser sessions", it also says. The app will be discontinued on Apple's iOS, though it will continue to run on Android devices.

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