Privacy? Zuck it, here's 20 bucks.


Emailed on February 1, 2019 in The Friday Forward

Facebook has been secretly paying people to install a “Facebook Research” VPN that lets the company suck in all of a user’s phone and web activity. 

Since 2016, Facebook has been paying users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 per month plus referral fees to sell their privacy by installing the iOS or Android “Facebook Research” app.

Yes, you read that correctly, half of that demographic is made up of teens.

Facebook even asked users to screenshot their Amazon order history page. The program is administered through beta testing services Applause, BetaBound and uTest to cloak Facebook’s involvement.

Seven hours after TechCrunch published this story, Facebook told TechCrunch it would shut down the iOS version of its Research app in the wake of the report.

Honorable, right? Not so much. On Wednesday morning, an Apple spokesperson confirmed that Facebook violated its policies, and it had blocked Facebook’s Research app on Tuesday before the social network seemingly pulled it voluntarily (without mentioning it was forced to do so). 

Think about it: The cost of this scandal being found out was absolutely calculated. It was a bet Facebook executives were willing to make. The question wasn't if it would be found out, but when, and how long it could go before it was inevitably stopped.

Sean Steigerwald