Facebook on Tuesday launched an app that will pay users to share information with the social media giant about which apps they’re using.The company previously rolled out two similar apps that tracked what activities people did on their phones. But both were shut down after drawing criticism for infringing on privacy and violating Apple’s App Store guidelines.
Facebook said the new app, called Study, is different than the previous two and was built from scratch. And it is only available on the Google Play Store, though Facebook said it might work to expand it to iOS in the future.The new app will collect information about which apps people are using and for how long, including which app features are used. That could give Facebook valuable insight into how people use its competitors’ services.
Facebook said it will not track passwords or account IDs and it will periodically remind people that the app is collecting their data.”They are being a little less intrusive with this one,” said Lance Cottrell, chief scientist for the cybersecurity firm Ntrepid, noting that Facebook says it won’t collect some of the more sensitive information from people’s phones such as photos and web searches.
What it will do, Cottrell suspects, is give it further advantage over competitors because it will be able to tell how long apps are being used, and even which features within them are most popular. Facebook already has a step up when setting up such market research, Cottrell said — not many other companies could release a similar service and get as many participants as Facebook is bound to.
Facebook said the app will not be used to serve people ads, and information will not be shared with third-party companies — a line the company has been walking carefully since its Cambridge Analytica scandal last year that exposed the data of millions of Facebook users to an outside political research firm.The Study app is now available in the US and India. Facebook is not saying how much it will pay participants to share their information.