The incidents with the Facebook Research app and Google's Screenwise Meter app illuminate just how important that data is to the companies and come at a time when lawmakers, critics and the public are already distrustful of how they obtain and use that data.
It enables Facebook to view web searches, location information, private messages in social media apps, and other data, Guardian Mobile Firewall security specialist Will Strafach told TechCrunch, and in some cases, the study's participants are even asked to screenshot a page showing what they ordered from Amazon. This has been going on since 2016.
The news that Facebook knowingly bypassed privacy rules to grab teenagers' person data follow on the heels of revelations that the company knowingly manipulated children into spending their parents' money without permission while playing games on Facebook.
The VPN app, called Facebook Research, but referred to as "Project Atlas" in company documentation, provides absolute access to a device's network data.
Make sure to read the full report from TechCrunch by hitting the source link below as it provides an incredibly detailed picture of Facebook's shady practices.
Facebook previously pulled an app called Onavo Protect from Apple's app store because of its stricter requirements. "Facebook is betting that their apps are too popular, that they can do what they want and Apple has to sit back and take it".
To use the Facebook Research app, the user is required to install a Facebook Enterprise Developer Certificate and "trust" it, so that the company can have root access to phone and usage data. It wasn't "spying" as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear onboarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate.
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Whether Facebook users who signed up for this program truly understood its implications is up for debate.
Facebook claimed that parental consent was received by every user under the age of 18 that had downloaded and installed the app.
Hours after Apple revoked Facebook's iOS developer certificate for using an app that closely tracked some users' data, a report from TechCrunch said Wednesday that Google also has an app that closely monitors traffic and data on smartphones.
If you're wondering why Facebook is using an apparent clone of an app that has since been banned, Gizmodo cites a Wall Street Journal report that detailed how data from Onavo provided Facebook vital insight for key business decisions, including a redesign and the acquisition of WhatsApp.
"To my eyes, this action constitutes Facebook declaring war on Apple's iOS privacy protections". According to Recode, Apple revoked Facebook's certificates "to protect our users and their data". Facebook posted revenue exceeding $16.9 billion, and the company said it had 1.2 billion daily active users.
The data Google collects from the various trackers includes "the sites you visit, the apps you use, the television shows that play on your television, information about how you use them, device IP address, and cookies".
This is far from the first time Apple and Facebook have.