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Facebook paid children as young as 13 for access to monitor all their internet data
Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook paid children as young as 13 for access to monitor all their internet data

The app used for this has since been pulled by the company

Facebook used an app to pay people as young as 13 years old to allow the company to monitor all their internet activity.

What's the story?

According to the website TechCrunch, Facebook used an iPhone and Android app called "Facebook Research" to gather data. This app would pay users, who ranged in age from 13 to 35, up to $20 a month, and in return it would send to Facebook information about that user's web activity. This has been going on since 2016.

The app would normally be in violation of Apple's own privacy policy for apps. However, according to The Guardian, Facebook circumvented these rules by asking users to download an "enterprise developer certificate." This allowed Facebook to bypass the App store by treating the users as app developers testing an unfinished app. Apple limits the use of these developer apps to employees of the app creator, but Facebook reportedly violated this policy. Apple has since (at least temporarily) revoked Facebook's ability to use these developer apps on its iPhones at all.

When questioned about this, Facebook admitted to TechCrunch that these allegations were accurate. After that story broke, Facebook said it would shut down the Apple version of the app. For its part, Apple said that the app had been blocked before Facebook said that it had pulled it.

Despite discontinuing the app, Facebook has defended the app. In a statement to CNBC, the company said:

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.

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