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.
A report at TechCrunch exposes Facebook's latest disgrace, which has seen the social network pay users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 per month to sell their privacy by installing the iOS or Android "Facebook Research" app.
The app, which has been available since 2016 and is also referred to as "Project Atlas", enables Facebook to collect data by enabling root access to a user's device; it's similar to Facebook's Onavo Protect app that Apple banned from the App Store back in June.
It enables Facebook to view web searches, location information, private messages in social media apps, and other data, Guardian Mobile Firewall security specialist Will Strafach told TechCrunch, and in some cases, the study's participants are even asked to screenshot a page showing what they ordered from Amazon.
The so-called VPN app is distributed through beta testing services Applause, BetaBound and uTest, and according to TechCrunch, participants on iOS are asked to sideload the app using an Apple Enterprise Developer Certificate, likely in violation of Apple's stringent guidelines.
"Facebook seems to have purposefully avoided TestFlight, Apple's official beta testing system, which requires apps to be reviewed by Apple and is limited to 10,000 participants," the report says.
"Instead, the instruction manual reveals that users download the app from r.facebook-program.com and are told to install an Enterprise Developer Certificate and VPN and 'Trust' Facebook with root access to the data their phone transmits."
Facebook told TechCrunch it will shut down the iOS version of its Research app in the wake of its report.
"Like many companies, we invite people to participate in research that helps us identify things we can be doing better," Facebook said in a statement.
"Since this research is aimed at helping Facebook understand how people use their mobile devices, we've provided extensive information about the type of data we collect and how they can participate. We don't share this information with others and people can stop participating at any time." µ
We should be shocked, but...
But the search giant has now squashed the bug
But it's not yet available here in Blighty