Facebook to pay users to monitor phone activity

    Posted on June 13, 2019


    Social networking company Facebook has once again stated that it is willing to pay people in exchange for access to their mobile phones to monitor how they are being used.

    Users who agree to be part of Facebook’s latest round of research will be using an app called Study. It will monitor various sets of data, including which apps have been downloaded and installed on the device and how much time is spend using each of them. It will record geographical data to let Facebook know which country the user is in, as well as additional app data that could reveal any specific features being used.

    Facebook has stated that it will not see any specific content that the user looks at, including messages, websites visited, or passwords.

    The launch of the Study app comes a few months after Facebook’s last app that it used for user-tracking research, called Facebook Research, was closed down due to a couple of controversies. This was reported by TechCrunch and stated that the app was marketed solely to teens. Furthermore, the iOS version relied on a certificate that permitted the app to evade the Apple App Store to gain deeper access to the device, which is against Apple’s rules. The app was shut down earlier this year, in January.

    The introduction of the Study app highlights that Facebook still has a need for data on how people are using their mobile phones, while demonstrating that it has learned a few lessons since the troubles of the previous attempt.

    Study will only be marketed to users aged 18 and over and will only be made available to Android users, where the deeper access the company requires can be granted. The app will open up with a series of different screens, each describing the type of data it will be collected and how it will then be used.

    Users will have their age verified through their Facebook accounts and will be paid via PayPal, which also has an age restriction of 18 and over. The social company has said that it will reference other data the company holds on each participant when analysing data collected from Study, but data from the app will not be linked to the user’s Facebook account and will not be used in ad targeting.

    Facebook has not stated how much it intends to pay those who sign up to Study, but in a blog post, it does confirm that they will be compensated. It will originally be launching in India and the US. Furthermore, not everyone will be eligible to sign up for the research, with Facebook targeting those it wants to participate through an ad, which users can click on to sign up. Facebook has not yet hinted at who will be invited to take part.

    Alan Littler
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