‘Study From Facebook’ App To Pay Users For Their Data

Facebook is launching a market research app it is calling “Study from Facebook”, that will allow users to sell the social networking giant information about how they use competitor apps.

The firm said it is intending to be as transparent and open as possible about the app, and will keep their data safe, but Facebook has not revealed how much it will actually pay for people’s data.

The move comes as Facebook seeks a more “privacy focused” future for the social networking platform, a big change from Mark Zuckerberg’s previous stance on the subject.

Market research

Facebook revealed the new Android app in a blog posting by product manager Sagee Ben-Zedeff.

“Earlier this year, we announced that we’d be shifting our focus to reward-based market research programs, which means that all research participants are compensated,” Ben-Zedeff wrote. “Today we are launching a new market research app called Study from Facebook.”

“Here’s how it works,” he wrote. “We’ll run ads to encourage people to participate in this market research program. When someone clicks on an ad, they’ll have the option to register and, if they qualify, they’ll be invited to download the app. Once invited, they’ll find the Study from Facebook app in the Google Play Store.”

“As they sign up, people will see a description of how the app works and what information they’ll be sharing with us so they can confirm they want to participate,” he said. “We also notify users on the Study from Facebook website and in the Play Store description about what information we collect and how it will be used.”

“Anyone who uses the app will be compensated for contributing to the research,” he wrote. “Only people who are 18 and older will be eligible to participate at launch, and all participants will be able to opt out at any time.”

Essentially, once the app is downloaded from the Google Play Store, it will transmit data to Facebook on what other apps the users have, what features they use, and how much time is spent on them.

Facebook promised the app would not collect user IDs, passwords, or any of the participant’s content, such as photos, videos, or messages.

The arrival of this research app comes after Apple cracked down on Facebook back in June 2018 and then again in January this year, after it was found to be using similar apps that paid users as young as 13 years old for data on their smartphone usage.

Privacy balance

Facebook is having to tread a very fine line between the need for data, and its new found respect for people’s privacy.

In March federal prosecutors in New York began a criminal investigation into Facebook’s data-sharing agreements.

That came after it emerged last December that leading tech firms and consumer brands such as Amazon, Spotify, Microsoft and Netflix had struck deals with Facebook to harvest the personal data of millions of its users, including private messages.

It should be remembered that Facebook is already being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The FTC investigation is about whether in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook violated a 2012 privacy agreement.

And the Justice Department’s securities fraud unit has also reportedly begun an investigation over the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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