FACEBOOK is handing children cash to install a creepy app on their smartphone that spies on them.
The scandal-hit firm has been secretly paying teens up to £15 a month to install the tool in a desperate bid to mine data on its bitter tech rivals, including Apple and Amazon.
uTest, which did some of the research for Facebook, advertised its snooping app to children using flashy Snapchat and Instagram ads (pictured)[/caption]
Known as the “Facebook Research” app, it works by hoovering up kids’ phone and web activity.
Facebook’s sinister research boffins then sift through the data to track how they use gadgets, websites and apps.
Since 2016, the California tech titan has offered people aged 13 to 35 up to £15 a month plus bonuses to sell their privacy, according to a TechCrunch investigation.
Hiding its identity behind third party research firms, Facebook tempted in innocent children with ad campaigns on Snapchat & Instagram that promised they could earn money via “social media research”.
A tidal wave of privacy and data scandals have washed over slippery CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the past 12 months[/caption]
At least three US companies did the dirty work for Facebook, including uTest, Applause and Betabound, who referred to it as “Project Atlas”.
In the case of Applause and Betabound, they failed to explicitly mention the data they were collecting was for Facebook.
People who clicked on a study ad were ordered to install the snooping app on Android or iOS.
Opening the app took them to a sign up page for a “study” that collected data from your phone to help Facebook spy on how you browse the internet and use your apps.
This “Facebook Research study”, offered through its website, asks you to “Trust” it with pervasive access to your data[/caption]
Facebook could read participants’ private messages and chats, emails, internet searches and internet searches, according to Guardian Mobile Firewall’s Will Strafach.
It could also track people’s ongoing location data through location tracking apps installed in their phone.
As part of one study, kids and adults were even asked to screenshot their Amazon purchases and hand them over to researchers.
Following TechCrunch’s investigation, Facebook admitted that it is running a programme to gather data on people’s usage habits.
Facebook has been paying kids to install an app that spies on them[/caption]
However, it defended itself by saying less than 5% of participants were children.
“Key facts about this market research program are being ignored,” a spokesperson told The Sun.
“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.
The Facebook research app on iOS[/caption]
“Finally, less than 5 percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens. All of them with signed parental consent forms.”
Facebook’s nefarious activities could land them in hot water with Apple.
Project Atlas may be a violation of Apple policy on data mining, as many participants are installing the apps on their iPhones.
Apple did not immediately respond to our request for comment, but a spokesperson told TechCrunch the firm was “aware of the issue”.
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Facebook said it plans to shut down the Facebook Research app for iOS, but the Android version will still be available.
It’s not the first time the company has caused controversy this month.
On Friday, the company announced Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp chats are going to merge by 2021, a move seen by some as an attempt to solidify Facebook’s gargantuan social media monopoly.
Experts at the NSPCC lambasted the company, claiming the merge “will help groomers” and make it easier for them to target children.
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