Thu, Jun 13, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Facebook launching app that pays users for app usage data


A display for Facebook Gaming is shown during the opening day of E3, the annual video games expo, in Los Angeles, California, on Tuesday.

Photo: Reuters

Facebook Inc on Tuesday launched an app that would pay users to share information with the social media giant about which apps they are using.

The company previously rolled out two similar apps that tracked what activities people did on their phones. However, both were shut down after drawing criticism for infringing on privacy and violating Apple Inc’s App Store guidelines.

Facebook said the new app, called Study, is different than the previous two and was built from scratch.

It is only available on the Google Play Store, though Facebook said it might work to expand it to iOS in the future.

The new app will collect information about which apps people are using and for how long, including which app features are used. That could give Facebook valuable insight into how people use its competitors’ services.

Facebook said it would not track passwords or account IDs and it would periodically remind people that the app is collecting their data.

A previous market-research app from the company, called Research, got in hot water earlier this year when a report found that teens were using it and it was sidestepping Apple’s guidelines.

Apple booted it from its app store and Facebook eventually shut it down completely.

The other app, called Onavo Protect, was a virtual private network service used to keep information private in public settings — but it was also collecting information about app usage and sending it to Facebook. That app, too, has been shut down.

Facebooks appears to be acting in a more up-front manner this time, but some privacy experts are concerned users will still not know exactly what information they are sending.

Many people skip reading privacy policies, said mobile app security researcher Will Strafach, who studied the underlying code of Facebook’s Research app earlier this year.

Moreover, if Facebook updates the privacy guidelines, there is no guarantee they will be up-front about it, he said.

“I think that it’s Facebook’s job to make it extremely clear” how it works, he said. “They haven’t done that in the past.”

In any case, one thing the app is sure to do is give Facebook more insight into personal data and use of not only its own services, but others as well.

Facebook said the app would not be used to serve people ads and information would not be shared with third-party companies — a line the company has been walking carefully since its Cambridge Analytica scandal last year that exposed the data of millions of Facebook users to an outside political research firm.

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