In a cash pressed economy such as ours, one would be tempted to shout “Take my data!!”, to Facebook if they were going to pay you, but unfortunately this is turning out to be yet another huge scandal for the social media giant which can’t seem to avoid blunders.
So what exactly did they do this time?
It turns out Facebook was secretly paying people to install a “research VPN” that let the company look in on a person’s phone and web activity. This app worked similar to how Onavo –Facebook’s VPN which later got banned- worked. Onavo was looking at everything, the apps you use, your web traffic, and your data. This recently discovered “research app” worked pretty similarly except the app was really under the radar.
After Apple banned Onavo, Facebook turned to this App, which rewarded teens and even grown-ups who so-wished, to get root access to phones. Since 2016, users between 13-35 were being paid up to $20/month + referral fees to sell their privacy by installing this app. The application went as far as asking users to screenshot their Amazon order history pages and send them in. Apple has removed the application from the App Store but it’s reportedly still available on Android (I hadn’t found it yet).
This one is a tricky one, Facebook was getting user consent but then the more ethical questions that then arise is; “Does the consent of a 13-year-old, really matter?” I think people investigating this will feel Facebook manipulated the younger audiences in their research pool. Considering the year Facebook had in 2018, it seems the company cares less and less about ethics, as they have been wading in scandal after scandal.
If Facebook really cared about user privacy these scandals wouldn’t keep occurring. Mind you, Facebook’s business model is advertising and that doesn’t really go hand in hand with user privacy so if you continue using Facebook, you have to be at peace with the likelihood that your data is probably being exploited in some way…