Facebook Shuts Down Controversial Program to Pay Apple Users for Data

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the annual F8 summit at the San Jose Mc Enery Convention Center in San Jose California

Come on kids there’s gift cards

As highlighted by TechCrunch, the Facebook Research app sent data to an address which is affiliated with Onavo, a VPN app which was pulled by Facebook last August after Apple warned that the app violated its policies on data gathering. Information leaking out of Facebook paints an image of a company in turmoil as apps the employees rely on have just stopped working. In contrast to the Facebook Research app, Google said its Screenwise Meter app never asked users to let the company circumvent network encryption, meaning it is far less intrusive.

Usually when apps are tested on iOS, developers go through Apple's TestFlight, the tech giant's program to administer app tests. This time, Facebook was caught running a shady "research" program that paid teenagers and adults to install a VPN monitor on their phones, piping all their browsing data back to Facebook for analysis. This includes information on apps users have installed, when they use them and what they do on them.

Update: 9:50am: This post was updated with a confirmation from Facebook that Apple's revocation impacted its internal apps as well.

"To use it this way, and under their own name, is just fantastic to me". But BuzzFeed News reporter Ryan Mac tried signing up after the TechCrunch report was published, and found very few disclosures to participants that Facebook was behind it.

A Facebook spokesperson disputed portions of TechCrunch's report in a statement to Fox News, claiming that key facts are being ignored. In some advertisements for the app displayed on Instagram and Snapchat, teens were targeted to participate in a paid social media research study, and if they tried to sign up were asked to get their parent's approval through a Web form. Disabling Facebook's apps is a major escalation of tensions, though.

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 Facebook CEO was by Cook's remarks that he reportedly ordered Facebook staff to switch over from iPhones to Android phones.

And Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., wrote on Twitter: "Wait a minute".

In return for all this data, the user gets $20 per month in e-gift cards, plus referral fees.

"The Screenwise Meter iOS app should not have operated under Apple's developer enterprise program", a Google spokeswoman said in a statement. The app then shows users how to sideload an Enterprise Certificate-based VPN app and tracks one's traffic and data through the VPN. This app is completely voluntary and always has been.

Apple's decision to revoke Facebook's Enterprise Certificate is "causing mayhem" for the social network's employees, according to TechCrunch, because they no longer have access a wide range of internal, employee-only apps, nor any apps for new products in development.

Katie Moussouris of Luta Security says she understands why younger users would agree to give so much access to their private lives. "So I think for them, it probably feels like there's nothing left to hide".

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