Facebook will do anything to gather more data about its users and learn about its competitors — including reportedly paying people to install a VPN that allowed the company to spy on their phone and web activity.
Since 2016, Facebook has allegedly paid users between the ages of 16 and 35 up to $20 a month to use the “Facebook Research” app. It has even asked some users to screenshot their Amazon order history. According to security researcher Will Strafach, this tool allows Facebook to gather a wide range of user data, including private messages, photos and videos sent to others, emails, web searches, browsing activity, and location information.
“The fairly technical sounding ‘install our Root Certificate’ step is appalling,” Strafach told TechCrunch. “This hands Facebook continuous access to the most sensitive data about you, and most users are going to be unable to reasonably consent to this regardless of any agreement they sign, because there is no good way to articulate just how much power is handed to Facebook when you do this.”
This is creepy for many reasons, not the least of which is that Facebook thinks your privacy is worth only $20. But it’s eye-opening, and hopefully instructive, to know just how far the company is willing to go to obtain our info.