Facebook paid teenage users to install a VPN that spies on them

Facebook pays users to install a VPN that collects their data

UPDATE: Jan. 30, 2019, 12:54 p.m. EST Facebook has confirmed in an emailed statement to Mashable that Apple's revocation of its enterprise certificate affects the company's internal apps.

So what kind of data is collected by Facebook as a part of this "research"?

Facebook did not immediately respond to further requests for comment.

"We designed our Enterprise Developer Program exclusively for the internal distribution of apps within an organization, Apple said".

"Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple", the statement added. The app requires "participants" to install Root Certificate, which grants Facebook full rights to practically every little piece of information you have on your phone, including prized access to usage data about third party apps.

TechCrunch suggested that the app violated Apple's Enterprise Certificate policy, which places tight restrictions on accessing sensitive user data.

Despite being warned, Facebook chose to circumvent the App Store to distribute the "Project Atlas" research app (as first reported by TechCrunch) by taking advantage of Apple's Developer Enterprise Program which allows business partners to test and distribute apps to their own employees without any review from Apple.

Because Facebook operates free of charge to its users, it's tough to put an exact price on all of the data that it has on each one of us.

If the app sounds familiar it's because Facebook has tried this before, only using a more legitimate route.

Facebook had said it the iOS app from its program, but it looks as if Apple beat them to it. The app, first reported by TechCrunch, had targeted users between ages 13 and 35.

Facebook said fewer than 5 percent of the participants in the program were teens and that all of those teens had signed parental consent forms.

Apple banned and removed the Onavo app because it was in direct violation of the store's data collection policies, but Facebook's need for information would not be denied: the new app, called "Facebook Research", was soon after uploaded to BetaBound, uTest and Applause - but not to TestFlight, Apple's own official beta testing system.

An investigation by the online news site TechCrunch said the effort, which had been known as the Onavo Project and later rebaptized as Facebook Research, was used to gather data on usage habits. Asked about it by The Associated Press, Google said it had disabled the app on Apple devices and apologized for its "mistake". Apple blocked the app before the tech giant could voluntarily remove iOS. This type of data gathering can not be done using an App Store app.

Of course, the data that Facebook has already gathered can not be unseen and the ball is now in Apple's court to react to the way Facebook has violated the rules of Apple's platform to carry on its extensive data mining operations. "We don't share this information with others and people can stop participating at any time". As TechCrunch reports, the company's forays into data-monitoring give the company insights into competitors such as TikTok and Snapchat.

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