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Facebook Paid Children as Young as 13 to Install App That 'Spied' on Them

Social media giant uses app despite Apple already banning it

 on 30th January 2019 @ 2.00pm
social platform continues to be plagued with issues on private user data issues © press
Social platform continues to be plagued with issues on private user data issues

Social media giant Facebook has admitted it paid young people to install a 'social media research' app on their phone to monitor web activity, reports say.

The social platform, who have been plagued with recent scandals on private user data issues, hired people aged from 13-35 to download the app on their devices.

The app, which was known as Onavo VPN, was banned from the app store because of data collection policy violations.

Facebook had somehow sidestepped the App Store and paid children as young as 13 years up to $20 a month to download the app, according to an investigation by TechCrunch.

the app  which was known as onavo vpn  was banned from the app store because of data collection policy violations © press
The app, which was known as Onavo VPN, was banned from the app store because of data collection policy violations.

But Facebook told the Daily Mail that less than five percent of those selected were teenagers before emphasizing that the app wasn't 'spying' on users.

They instead administered it through beta testing services Applause, BetaBound, and uTest.

Facebook then began referring to the app as 'Project Atlas' and running ads on Snapchat and Instagram shortly after it was banned by Apple.

The ads asked people to sign up to a 'paid social media research study,' but did mention it was Facebook.

But Facebook had disclosed it was them when users under the age of 18-years-old attempt to sign-up and parents were requested to fill out a consent form.

Facebook told TechCrunch they had launched the programme to gather data on usage habits.

The tech giant is said to be 'desperate for data on their competitors' following recent mistakes including the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which caused users to leave the network.

facebook then began referring to the app as  project atlas  and running ads on snapchat and instagram © press
Facebook then began referring to the app as 'Project Atlas' and running ads on Snapchat and Instagram

According to the DailyMail: Apple banned the app, formerly known as Onavo VPN, from the app store because it violated its data collection policies.

But according to an investigation by TechCrunch, Facebook has sidestepped the App Store and paying users up to $20 a month, plus referral fees

App Store rules specify that apps 'should not collect information about which other apps are installed on a user's device,' according to Guardian Mobile Firewall's security expert Will Strafach.

'If Facebook makes full use of the level of access they are given by asking users to install the Certificate, they will have the ability to continuously collect the following types of data: private messages in social media apps, chats from in instant messaging apps – including photos/videos sent to others, emails, web searches, web browsing activity, and even ongoing location information by tapping into the feeds of any location-tracking apps you may have installed,' he told TechCrunch.

A company spokesperson defended the project saying 'key facts about the program are being ignored.'

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been openly critical of Facebook's data collection practices and their 'surveillance practices.'

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

'It wasn't ''spying''as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear onboarding 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. All of them with signed parental consent forms.'

They said that they are ending the program with Apple and that Onavo was removed from the app store in 2018.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been openly critical of Facebook's data collection practices and their 'surveillance practices.'

[RELATED] Facebook Suspends 'Researcher' Who Faked 'Russian Meddling' in Election

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