New Facebook app will pay users to collect data on how they use rival apps

12 June 2019, 09:59 | Updated: 12 June 2019, 16:28

Facebook is launching a new app called Study which will pay users for their data following a series of scandals about the way the company acquires and handles users' data.

The company was criticised earlier this year when it was revealed to have paid children as young as 13 to install software on their phones which allowed it to collect data on how they used its competitors' apps.

Facebook disputed that the app "spied" on users as they had consented to its terms which allowed it access to every bit of activity on a phone - and participants were paid.

It added that parental consent had been received for the children who installed it.

The controversial programme was shut down following outcry over the app, which was only available on Android phones.

Apple had previously banned Facebook's market research app Onavo, which the social media company acquired for $120m (£91m) in 2014.

It has been reported that it was Onavo which allowed Facebook to spot the enormous growth in WhatsApp before acquiring it for $19bn (£14.5bn) just months later.

Now Facebook is re-launching the market research programme under the name Study, which will only be available on Android again - where user privacy is not as tightly policed, and it will only be available to people over 18.

The Study app will explicitly allow Facebook to collect information about the apps installed on users' phones, the amount of time they spend on those apps, and what activities people are performing on those apps.

Facebook stated it "does not collect user IDs, passwords, or any of the participant's content, such as photos, videos, or messages" although the permissions required for the app could enable it to attempt to collect such content.

If such a breach of permissions occurred the company would likely face enormous fines in jurisdictions with stringent privacy regulations; however, the initial launch is being limited to the US and India.

"We also don't sell information from the app to third parties or use it to target ads, and it is not added to a participant's Facebook account if they have one," the company stated.

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It is not clear how much participants in the Study programme will be paid, but those in its previous programme received up to $20 (£15.25) a month, according to reports.