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New app to track app usage for research

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New app to track app usage for research


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes his keynote speech during Facebook Inc’s annual F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S., April 30, 2019.

Stephen Lam | Reuters

Facebook on Tuesday announced a new app that will let the company collect data on how people use their smartphones in exchange for money.

The new app is called Study, and it is designed to give Facebook data on what apps participants install, how much time they spend on those apps, what features they use on those apps, what country they’re in, and type of device and network they’re using.

Facebook has a long history of using apps to collect information about usage habits in order to improve its own products.

In 2013, Facebook bought a free security app called Onavo, which let users access a virtual private network, or VPN, to browse the web and download apps with a greater degree of privacy. Facebook used data from Onavo to gather broad information about which apps were popular and how people were using them, which it used to improve its own products, but claims it did not collect information about individual users.

However, Facebook pulled the app from the App Store in 2018 after Apple reportedly told the company that it violated rules then-new rules about user privacy. In February of this year, Facebook told TechCrunch it would remove Onavo from Google Play store and shut down the project.

In January, TechCrunch discovered that Facebook was incorrectly using an Apple app certification to run a similar program called Facebook Research. As a result, Apple suspended Facebook from its certification, briefly causing the company’s internal employee apps to break. Facebook stopped recruiting users for Facebook Research earlier this year TechCrunch reported.

Facebook says the new app, Study, will not collect data on user IDs, passwords, photos, videos or messages, and that it will not sell the data it collects or use it to target ads. The data will be used to help the company build better products, the company said in a blog post.

“Approaching market research in a responsible way is really important,” the company said in the blog post. “Transparency and handling people’s information responsibly have guided how we’ve built Study from Facebook.”

The app will first be available to users in the U.S. and India. The company did not specify exactly how much money users will receive in exchange for their participation other than “anyone who uses the app will be compensated for contributing to the research.”

WATCH: Here’s how to see which apps have access to your Facebook data — and cut them off


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