Privacy Blog

“By continuing the process of inflation, governments can confiscate secretly and unobserved an important part of the wealth of their citizens.” – John Maynard Keynes, writing about the effects of a seemingly small amount of inflation every year.

Facebook Pays Cell Phone Owners to Install a Shady VPN that Spies on Them

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, similar to Facebook’s Onavo Protect app that Apple banned in June and that was removed in August. Facebook sidesteps the App Store and rewards teenagers and adults to download the Research app and give it root access to network traffic in what may be a violation of Apple policy so the social network can decrypt and analyze their phone activity, a TechCrunch investigation confirms.

Facebook has admitted it was running the Research program to gather data on their customers’ usage habits.

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.

An Apple spokesperson provided this statement. “We designed our Enterprise Developer Program solely for the internal distribution of apps within an organization,” said a spokesperson. “Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple. Any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked, which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.”

Sadly, Facebook’s Research program will continue to run on Android.

You can find dozens of online articles describing Facebook’s malicious Facebook Research VPN by starting at: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=%E2%80%9CFacebook+Research%E2%80%9D+VPN&t=hl&ia=web.

If you have a cell phone, you should immediately uninstall any VPN provided by Facebook in order to protect your own privacy and the privacy of those you communicate with.

While you are at it, you also might want to uninstall any other Facebook apps as well, then cancel your Facebook account.

Categories: Online Privacy & Security, VPN (Virtual Private Networking)

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