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Facebook paid teenagers to mine device data

Facebook has been conducting research that gathers highly personal data from paid volunteers, a report has revealed.

TechCrunch said participants – including those aged 13-17 – have been paid up to $20 (£15.30)-a-month to open up their phone to deep analysis.

Facebook is said to have created an app that the report said appears to breach Apple’s privacy protection policies.

TechCrunch reported Facebook used social media ads to target teenagers for the scheme. Facebook denies this.

According to the report the app had the potential to provide Facebook with “nearly limitless access” to a user’s device including:

  • the contents of private messages in chat apps including photos and videos
  • emails
  • web browsing activity
  • logs of what apps were used and when
  • a location history of where the owner had physically been
  • data usage

In addition, TechCrunch reported that users were asked to provide screenshots of their Amazon orders.

The social network said everyone involved in the programme had consented, and that market research was standard practice.

However, in the hours after TechCrunch’s report was published, Facebook said it was now ending the programme on Apple devices. It has not, however, suspended a parallel effort on Android.

The research focused on users aged 13-35, and those under 18 were asked to get parental consent, Facebook said.

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