Facebook has been paying users between ages 13 and 35 up to $20 in the form of gift cards in exchange for their private data via its Research VPN app.
By requiring a custom root certificate to be installed, the company gains access to Android and iOS users' web and device info, including browsing activity and personal conversations.
Needless to say, it's advised to opt out of it and remove any trace of the software. Any kind of personal data is worth more than $20, after all. At that, it's important to know how to check whether a device is part of the program or not.
How To Know If Facebook Research Is Collecting Your Data
Double-checking if your device or, say, your kid's, is sending info to Facebook by way of its data-collecting app Research is fairly simple, and it takes just a couple of steps.
For Android devices, look for the Facebook Research app and uninstall it. It's also worth going to Settings > Network & Internet > VPN to see if there's any suspicious VPN installed. For good measure, head on over to Settings > Security & location > Encryption & credentials > Trusted credentials, and if there's anything Facebook-related under the User tab, revoke its access.
For iOS devices, the method is more or less the same. Just go to Settings > General > VPN and check if there's a dubious VPN listed there. Also, take a look at Settings > General > Profiles, and if there's a Facebook Research profile listed there, remove it.
Spread Isn't Stopping, Just Slowing Down
Facebook is already pulling the plug on the iOS version of Research, and it's not doing it out of the goodness of its heart. It's doing it because of Apple's strict policies. Now the important thing to note here is the app is alive and well on Android, and until Google steps in to put a stop to it, it's going to continue to thrive.
According to Facebook's statement, it doesn't think it's doing anything wrong here. In other words, it's justifying its actions and data-collecting practices.
"Key facts about this market research program are being ignored. Despite early reports, there was nothing 'secret' about this; it was literally called the Facebook Research App. It wasn't 'spying' as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear on-boarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate. Finally, less than 5 percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens. All of them with signed parental consent forms," a company spokesperson told TechCrunch.
Interestingly, Facebook isn't showing any kind of remorse or issuing any form of apology in its response to the backlash it's receiving over Research.
This is similar to the firm's Onavo product it launched in 2018. It's advertised as a VPN service that "protects" users when, in fact, it steals their data. Apple also told Facebook to remove it from the App Store then, saying it violated the store's guidelines for collecting data.