Facebook 'paid users to gather their personal data'

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the annual F8 summit at the San Jose Mc Enery Convention Center in San Jose California

Come on kids there’s gift cards

The social networking giant rewarded users who installed a virtual private network (VPN) app, which enabled it to monitor all of a user's phone and web activity as a form of market research, the website TechCrunch claimed.

A Facebook spokesperson told CBS News, "Key facts about this market research program are being ignored".

Several hours after the report was published, Facebook shut down the iOS Research app, but it appears to still be available to Android users.

Facebook says fewer than 5 percent of the app's users were teens and they had parental permission.

Facebook has been paying teenagers to install an alarming spy app on their phones - paying them $20 in gift cards to hoover up nearly all the data from their phones.

Facebook said in a statement Wednesday that the nature of the data collecting app was not secret.

The tension spilled over last summer when Facebook pulled a data-security app called Onavo from the app store after Apple determined it violated data-collection policies.

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"We designed our Enterprise Developer Program exclusively for the internal distribution of apps within an organization", a company representative told reporters. Apple said that Facebook's practices amounted to a breach of the agreement. It estimated about 2.7 billion people use Facebook along with its other services, including the photo-sharing app Instagram and its messaging tools, Messenger and WhatsApp. Zuckerberg said people often "assume we do things we don't do", like selling user data. The company also used the Onavo data to track usage of its rivals and to block some of them - including Vine, Ticketmaster, and Airbiquity - from accessing its friends data firehose API.

Facebook has been the target of much criticism over the way it handles user data, especially after it was revealed that the data of 87 million users had been improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

According to TechCrunch, Facebook sidestepped Apple's app store and its tighter rules on privacy.

Facebook characterized Project Atlas as a focus group "in alignment" with Apple's policies in initial comments to TechCrunch, though seven hours later admitted the company was stopping operations on iOS, "without admitting that Apple forced it to do", according to their report. The developer kit was brought in after a wider crackdown on data harvesting previous year, but appears to have become a loophole.

Beta testing services BetaBound, uTest and Applause helped distribute the app and don't initially mention on the sign-up pages for the social media study that they're letting Facebook access participants' data.

The Facebook CEO was by Cook's remarks that he reportedly ordered Facebook staff to switch over from iPhones to Android phones. So, what type of data was Facebook harvesting? It will be interesting to see how Facebook responds to this ban.

Facebook reacted by pulling the iOS version. "We've been upfront with users about the way we use their data in this app, we have no access to encrypted data in apps and on devices, and users can opt out of the program at any time", Google said in a statement.

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