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Facebook launches app that pays users for data

June 12, 2019

Facebook's new Study app allows users to share their app activity in exchange for compensation. The social media giant insists that the data will only be used for their purposes and not be sold to third parties.

A woman using Facebook
Image: picture-alliance/empics/N. Carson

Facebook on Tuesday launched an app that pays users to share information about which apps they are using. 

The new app, called Study, collects data on which apps its participants are using on their phones, for how long they are using them and what activities they do on the apps. Facebook insists the app will not collect data like account IDs and passwords or user photos, videos and messages, nor will it sell the information it collects to third parties.

Read more: Washington to Big Tech: You're on notice

Interested users have to register before being invited to download the app, a process during which they are informed about what information they are sharing. Participants will be paid for the information they give, though Facebook didn't specify how much. 

"We’ve learned that what people expect when they sign up to participate in market research has changed, and we’ve built this app to match those expectations. We’re offering transparency, compensating all participants, and keeping people’s information safe and secure," Product Manager Sagee Ben-Zedeff said in a company statement.

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Third attempt

The tech giant previously rolled out two similar apps that tracked user activities, but both were shut down over criticism of invading privacy.

One of the apps, called Research, landed in hot water earlier this year after a report found that teenagers were using it and it was sidestepping Apple App Store guidelines. The app provider then removed Research from its platform before Facebook eventually shut it down completely.

The other, Onavo Protect, was a VPN service from Facebook used to keep information private in public setting. However, the service was collecting information about app usage and sending it to Facebook. That app has also been shut down.

Read more: 'Vast' far-right disinformation networks discovered in EU

Study is different than the previous two and was built from scratch. Facebook also said the app will only be available in the Google Play Store to people in the United States and India, but it hopes to expand it to more people and to Apple's iOS in the future.

Facebook has drawn criticism in recent years for collecting and pooling data without users' permission. Last year, the social media titan was caught in a major scandal after it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, had been harvesting data from millions of Facebook profiles without consent.

Read more: Cambridge Analytica causing trouble for Facebook in Southeast Asia

Legislators around the world have since sought to curb Facebook's ability to collect data without permission. Earlier this year, Germany barred Facebook from forcing users to agree to partially unrestricted access to data from its services, including Instagram and WhatsApp. 

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