Facebook’s Secret Market Research App – Exploiting Users for Data?

It turns out that Facebook has been trying to get its hands on even more data than it already has. This time, however, the social media giant is keeping it on the down-low. That’s right, Facebook is using a secret Market Research app to get ridiculous access to data. The worst part of this? The social media platform is actually paying children as young as 13 years old to use this secret app.

Facebook's Secret Market Research App - Exploiting Users for Data?

Facebook’s Secret Market Research App – Exploiting Users for Data?

Facebook’s Secret Market Research App – The Full Story

In an effort to gain an upper hand on its competitors, Facebook has been secretly paying users to install and use their market research app, “Facebook Research”. Once installed, the app gains almost “limitless”  access to all of the device’s data.

While this kind of access isn’t illegal, things start to look very shady when you consider how Facebook went around selecting users to test out the app. Here’s what we know about the app:

  • Facebook pays users from ages 13 to 35 $20 a month to use the app.
  • The app violates Apple’s Enterprise Developer Program.
  • The app (and research) isn’t advertised on Facebook or other conventional locations but uses beta testing services to hide Facebook’s involvement.
  • Once installed, the app has nearly limitless access to a user’s data because it asks for root permissions.
  • The app uses very similar coding to Facebook’s Onavo Protect app. This app was removed from Apple’s store because it violated Apple’s VPN data collection practices.
  • This has been going on since 2016.

As you can see, the whole app is muddled with certain practices that suggest Facebook’s secret market research app isn’t exactly something the public would condone.

What This Means For Big Tech

As I mentioned above, Facebook’s “Facebook Research” app violated Apple’s Enterprise Developer Program. Developers use this program to create proprietary for the exclusive use of their employees. In other words, apps only for work. This is what Apple has on its support page regarding this program,

“If your organization is looking to create proprietary apps designed for and distributed exclusively to your organization’s employees, enroll in the Apple Developer Enterprise Program.”

Facebook’s secret market research app was in direct violation of Apple’s terms.  This was an app developed under the enterprise program, so no one but a Facebook employee should have used it. In other words, this is not an app advertised for consumer use. In fact, a few hours after TechCrunch broke the story, Apple blocked the app and then revoked Facebook’s Enterprise Certificate for 2 whole days.

What did that do? It broke all of Facebook’s internal apps, practically rendering the company’s workflow mute. Apple and Facebook have long been at opposing ends of the question of Privacy and this shows that Apple is willing to take some action against Facebook’s shady practices.

Facebook’s Secret Market Research App – Final Thoughts

Time and time again, Facebook continues to show that it doesn’t care about user privacy as it says it does. This time, however, it had obviously gone too far. As a reminder, the company had no problem allowing users as young as 13 to participate in this “research”. Apple’s response, however, might be enough to show the social media giant that there will be repercussions if these shady practices don’t stop. Do you think Apple’s ban is enough to make a difference?

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