Facebook Pays $20 to Teens to Use VPN that Spies on Them

A portrait of Facebook found Mark Zuckerberg is seen on an iPhone in this

A portrait of Facebook found Mark Zuckerberg is seen on an iPhone in this

The program is a more elaborate version of Onavo Protect, a Facebook-owned app that helped the company collect data on which apps were popular or growing in use, and which they used to help make business decisions, such as their $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp.

The report claimed users aged between 13 and 35 were paid up to 20 dollars (£15) a month to install the Facebook Research app on iOS and Android devices.

The VPN-based app is similar to one Facebook used to offer called Onavo Protect, which also logged and forward user activity to Facebook, but that app was specifically banned by Apple past year over privacy concerns. Facebook was later forced to remove Onavo from Apple's App Store, due to violations with Apple's data collection policies.

According to a report, Facebook has been collecting users' personal data for 3 years: nothing surprising is it?

Despite discontinuing the app, Facebook has defended the app.

Google has been running an app called Screenwise Meter, which bears a strong resemblance to the app distributed by Facebook Research that has now been barred by Apple, TechCrunch has learned.

The tech blog TechCrunch reported late Tuesday that Facebook paid about $20 a month to use 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. Finally, less than 5 percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens.

In a statement, an Apple spokesman told TechCrunch, "We designed our Enterprise Developer Program exclusively for the internal distribution of apps within an organization..."

Apple did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for comments but a spokesperson told TechCrunch that the company is aware of the issue. The company sidestepped the App Store and took advantage of a program the iPhone maker had designed for companies to internally distribute apps, according to a Wednesday report by TechCrunch. Apple could possibly pull the search giant's certifications next, causing internal mayhem for two of the biggest app developers on the planet. 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.

The sign-up page for the Research VPN app does not mention Facebook anywhere as well. Under the hood, the app is actually a VPN that gains root access to a device and then is able to decrypt and analyze all traffic. This may cover Facebook against legal repercussions but in reality, younger users may not understand what they are agreeing to.

The incident was reported as Facebook faces intense scrutiny over its data-handling practices and approach to user privacy.

IT SEEMS Facebook will leave no stone unturned to get access to user data, going so far as to pay teens for complete access to their phone activity.

The data Google collects from the various trackers includes "the sites you visit, the apps you use, the television shows that play on your television, information about how you use them, device IP address, and cookies".

In brief: Facebook has hit the headlines over yet another privacy-related controversy.

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