Sheryl Sandberg: The Teens 'Consented' to Putting Facebook Spyware on Their Phones
On Tuesday, news broke via TechCrunch that Facebook ran a sketchy “Research” program involving paid participants who downloaded an app onto their phones that was capable of monitoring virtually everything that they did—including in some cases teens as young as 13, who were recruited via social media ads that appeared designed to keep Facebook’s involvement low-profile. The app appeared to be a version of Facebook’s awful Onavo Protect VPN, the iOS version of which got yanked from Apple’s App Store last year for violating rules on data collection.
Apple responded soon after by revoking Facebook’s enterprise developer certificates, saying the Research app functioned via exclusive tools supposed to be used only for internal development purposes, not distribution to consumers. That threw the Facebook’s iOS development programs into chaos, infuriating Facebook staff. But beyond the inter-corporate drama, Facebook is also facing immense criticism for paying teenagers to install a program capable of monitoring everything from private messages and browsing histories to app messages on their devices.
“So I want to be clear what this is,” Sandberg told CNBC’s Julia Boorstin on Wednesday. “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.”