Facebook has rolled out a new Study from Facebook marketing research program that involves users downloading an app to collect data from their phone. The company said the the information it collects will go toward product development initiatives.
“Market research helps companies build better products for people. We believe this work is important to help us improve our products for the people who use Facebook,” wrote Facebook product manager Sagee Ben-Zedeff.
In January, Facebook removed its Research app from the iOS app store after being accused of paying teenagers for access to their mobile activity via a VPN app that gave Facebook nearly unlimited access to user data and phone activity.
How Facebook’s latest research program works. Facebook is promoting the program by running ads asking people to participate. If someone clicks on an ad, they’ll will be asked to register — and if they qualify — will be asked to download the Study with Facebook app from the Google Play Store.
Participants must be 18 years old, and currently it is only available to people in the U.S. and India.
Facebook is compensating users for participating in the market research program, but did not give details on how much money users would earn. (Facebook’s previous research program paid users $20 a month to have the app installed on their phone.)
What information is Facebook collecting? Once the app has been downloaded, it collects and analyzes the following information:
- The apps a user has installed on their phone.
- How much time a user spends on each app.
- App activity names and the app features users are taking advantage of.
- The user’s country, device and network type.
Facebook said it is not collecting user IDs, passwords or any content like photos, videos or messaging. The company also said it will not sell any information it collects via the app to third parties or use it to target ads. Also, the data collected will not be added to the person’s Facebook account information if they are a Facebook user.
Why we should care. Facebook’s mismanagement of user data has been a thorny issue for marketers. Advertisers have reaped the benefits of the company’s ad targeting capabilities, but marketers want safe platforms — and channels — where their messaging can be heard without the risk of people’s data being misused, or worse, stolen.
Facebook said the information it collects via its Study with Facebook program will not be used for ad targeting, and that the research is going toward building “better products” for its users. As Facebook shifts to become more of a messaging platform focused on privacy, better products will benefit marketers wanting to more ways to engage with their audiences on Facebook’s family of apps (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp).
But, the catch for the research participants — and by extension, marketers — is whether or not Facebook can be trusted and that the information it is collecting will not be mishandled or result in another user privacy crisis.
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