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Facebook Pays People To Allow Them To Mine Their Data
Quote:Facebook is no stranger to data privacy scandals. Last year, it was revealed that the data of over 87 million Facebook users was accessed by third-parties, for which the company received a lot of flak. Now, a new report has emerged claiming that Facebook paid people - including teenagers - on a monthly basis in order to mine their device data.

The disturbing revelation was made by TechCrunch, which extensively detailed how Facebook was paying people aged 13-35 up to $20 per month so that their devices could be mined. The report claims that this data was gathered using a "Facebook Research" VPN - for Android and iOS - that could be downloaded through beta testing services rather than the respective mobile platform's app stores - where this app probably wouldn't have been allowed. The app in question gave access to the user's network traffic, which the firm utilized to "gather data on usage habits".
Despite its initial defensive stance, it appears that faced with facts and backlash, Facebook has started backtracking, announcing that it is shutting down the iOS version of Project Atlas. However, no such claim has been made regarding the Android version of the application. It will be quite interesting to see how Facebook defends this new controversy, given the shady tactics it employed in order to get the app into the hands of as many customers as it could, even minors.
Quote:It’s Wednesday, so that must mean Facebook is in hot water yet again after taking a laissez-faire attitude toward privacy. 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. The program wasn’t just sketchy — it also blatantly violated Apple’s developer guidelines. In response, Apple has nuked all of Facebook’s internal iOS apps.
Apple and Facebook have had an increasingly contentious relationship — this isn’t the first time Facebook used the App Store in violation of policies. Its Onavo VPN app got canned last year following allegations it snooped on users. Disabling Facebook’s apps is a major escalation of tensions, though. It’s unclear if Apple will rescind the ban, but I’d guess it will back off after Facebook twists in the wind for a while.
Quote:But, as it turns out, Facebook wasn't the only one giving away money in exchange for data - Google has been doing it too, and it hasn't been banned yet. According to a report from TechCrunch, which also discovered the initial Facebook infraction, Google has been distributing an app called Screenwise Meter, which does essentially the same as Facebook's Research app.
And Google gets its iOS internal apps banned as well:
Quote:At first glance, Apple looks like the good guy in this situation, locking down its servers and preventing abuse by companies like Google and Facebook. Writing for The Atlantic, Ian Bogost argues that this isn’t the case.
Bogost has a point. If Apple wanted to get serious about punishing Facebook or Google, it could stop partnering with Google on search. It could stop distributing Google and Facebook apps. It could put stronger limits on the types of data social media sites and search engines are allowed to collect off iOS devices and then enforce those limits when companies stepped over the line. At the very least, Apple could warn users upon installation that the companies who built the apps in question cannot be trusted with private user data.

Taking such steps would undoubtedly anger iOS users who rely on Google Maps, G Suite, Gmail, and Facebook — but it would also represent a genuinely courageous stand. Banning Facebook and Google from its enterprise application suite is nothing more than a slap on the wrist for either company. As demonstrations of courage go, it’s weak. And given that an Apple spokesperson has already told Buzzfeed that “We are working together with Google to help them reinstate their enterprise certificates very quickly,” even that weak punishment is likely to be over soon.
Quote:Update 2/1/19 9:05am EST: Apple has now restored Google’s internal iOS app access.

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