In India, Facebook unveils new paid research program to track competitors, startups

Ruben Fields
June 12, 2019

Facebook promised users of its new Study app that it would be transparent about the information it collects and that the app would be secure.

The new app will collect information about which apps people are using and for how long, including which app features are used.

A previous market-research app from the company, called Research, got in hot water earlier this year when a report found that teens were using it and it was sidestepping Apple's guidelines.

Having learnt from its mistakes with Research and Onavo - programs that were paying teenagers to give Facebook data on how they were using their phones - Facebook's new endeavour has an age limit.

That Facebook gathers personal information from its users should come as no surprise - it could be argued that it is the social network's raison d' être. Facebook shut down the app for iOS users in January and then later did the same to the Android version. "This is all accessible before participants provide any market research information to the app".

Facebooks appears to be acting in a more upfront manner this time, said Lance Cottrell, chief scientist for the cybersecurity firm Ntrepid.

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App features that you employ. The company also said it wouldn't sell user information to third parties or use it to target ads.

"It's a lot of competitive intelligence, but a little less spying on the users", he said.

In retaliation, Apple temporarily suspended all of Facebook's internal apps, including those that employees use to schedule meetings and look up shuttle schedules, essentially bringing numerous company's processes to a halt. And if Facebook updates the privacy guidelines, there is no guarantee they will be upfront about it, he said. "They haven't done that in the past". That said, the company said that it won't see specific content like messages and passwords, nor will it use the collected data to send you targeted ads.

The app is only available in the USA and India now, but we'd be very surprised if the company doesn't release it everyone else - personal data is personal data after all, and Facebook is hungry for as much as it can get.

There's no word yet on the criteria for targeting users or how much they will be paid for participating.

To start with, the program is only available to Facebook users aged over 18 in the United States and India, and only on Android for now.

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