On Tuesday, Techcrunch reported that Facebook is paying teenagers to install a “Research” VPN app in iOS devices in exchange for $20 gift cards.
The main motive behind the app was to analyze the web activity and smartphone usage patterns of teenagers. The social media company invited participants to the dubious research program by putting up ads on Snapchat and Instagram.
Apple soon responded by blocking the app as it was a direct breach of the Cupertino giant’s policies. Apple revoked Facebook’s Enterprise Developer Certificate as companies are not allowed to distribute such apps to consumers.
Now Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, has defended the app by saying that teenagers “consented” to collect data.
Speaking to CNBC’s Julia Boorstin, Sandberg said, “The important thing is that the people involved in that research project knew they were involved and consented.”
Sandberg emphasized that Facebook obtained the required permissions to monitor all the activities that users were carrying out on devices where the spying app was installed.
However, there is no proof to validate that the parental consent forms were actually filled by the parents of the teenagers who participated in the research.
“So I want to be clear what this is. This is a Facebook Research app. It’s very clear to the people who participated. It’s completely opt-in. There is a rigorous consent flow and people are compensated. It’s a market research program,” said Sandberg.
It is not the first time that Facebook has tried to grab users’ data without having their “actual consent.” Previously, the social media company’s Onavo VPN app was also found sending data without users’ permission. The app was later removed by the Apple App store for violating privacy policies.