Facebook Has Been Paying Teens to Install Spyware on Their Own Phones


'Near Limitless Access' to Cell Phone Activity Including Private Messages, Photos, Videos, Emails, and More

Facebook is under fire for paying people between the ages of 13 and 35 to install spyware that allows the social media behemoth to see all of a user's activity on their cell phones, according to an investigation by TechCrunch.

"Desperate for data on its competitors, Facebook has been secretly paying people to install a 'Facebook Research' VPN that lets the company suck in all of a user’s phone and web activity," TechCrunch reports. A VPN, or virtual private network is software that creates a private tunnel through a public network, encrypting data to block a user's network provider from "seeing" their activity.

"Facebook admitted to TechCrunch it was running the Research program to gather data on usage habits," TechCrunch reported Tuesday.

"Since 2016, Facebook has been paying users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 per month plus referral fees to sell their privacy by installing the iOS or Android 'Facebook Research' app. Facebook even asked users to screenshot their Amazon order history page," TechCrunch adds.

TechCrunch's security editor took to Twitter to further explain their reporting, saying, "Facebook secretly reskinned its Onavo VPN app that Apple banned last year and began paying kids to install it, granting Facebook 'near limitless access' to their phone activity."

Guardian Mobile Firewall’s security expert Will Strafach told TechCrunch that Facebook could "continuously collect the following types of data: private messages in social media apps, chats from in instant messaging apps – including photos/videos sent to others, emails, web searches, web browsing activity, and even ongoing location information by tapping into the feeds of any location tracking apps you may have installed."

You can read TechCrunch's extensive report here.

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