Facebook has been running a program without the knowledge of the users, known as Project Atlas, to gather non-public phone and web activity statistics from paid volunteers for the past three years and “has no plans to prevent,” consistent with a replacement TechCrunch report. The report claims the social media company has been paying users ages 13-35 up to $20 and referral fees a month in exchange for putting in an application known as “Facebook Research” on their Mobile phones, be it Android or iOS devices, that collects this information and sends it back to Facebook. Facebook has confirmed the existence of the Research/Analysis program to TechCrunch.
Facebook was antecedently grouping a number of this information through an application called “Onavo Protect”, a VPN service that was purchased for around $120 million in 2014. The information gotten has claimed to have helped Facebook gauge the very large unrealized ability of WhatsApp, a startup than at a certain time, then acquired it for $19 billion within the same year. Facebook removed the application from the Apple App Store last year because Apple complained that it desecrated their guidelines on privacy and information assortment.
Facebook might have chalked out a workaround on the ban with its Research application – the report calls it a poorly re-branded build of the prohibited Onavo Application. In this, it’s basically been paying users to sideload it from outside of the App Store. Facebook has loosely been operating with three (3) Application beta testing services, BetaBound, uTest, and Applause, to distribute its Research application, and it’s been doing this since 2016 in what seems to be an open disregard for Apple’s privacy rules.
The Research application needs that users install a custom root certificate that is really an enterprise certificate designed to grant employers access to employees’ work devices, however, Facebook has been using it to achieve root access on iPhones meant for Users. The entire process permits Facebook to “distribute this application without Apple’s review to many users as they need.” A Spokesman from Facebook has confirmed to TechCrunch that the aforesaid program somehow doesn’t violate Apple’s policies, although it’s going to look like it will.
It’s surprising that Facebook gets “nearly limitless access to a user’s device once they install the application, starting from “private messages in social media apps, chats from an instant electronic messaging apps together with photos/videos sent to others, emails, web searches, web browsing activities, and even in progress location information by sound into the feeds of any location tracing application you will have to insert”. The application also asks users to take screenshots of their Amazon order history and send it back to them. And there’s no way users apprehend that Facebook is concerned, till simply before they install the application probably lured by money.
Facebook has been within the eye of the storm over a string of privacy scandals recently. And Apple has been quite vocal regarding its stand on user’s privacy. Last year, Apple corporate executive Tim Cook was asked what he would do if he was in Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg’s position within the wake of the Cambridge Analytical scandal, he replied “I wouldn’t be during this state of affairs. The reality is we have a tendency to create a lot of cash if we have a tendency to monetized our client if our client was our product. We have chosen to not try this.”
Zuckerberg had called out Tim Cook on Facebook because of his comments simply because the social media company failed to charge its users, it didn’t mean it cared any less regarding them (about their privacy).
Everyone is aware that Facebook has been caught a foot in mouth, paying volunteers to spy on their devices, tensions are certain to heighten between the 2 corporations.