Facebook to rein in suspect market research programs following reprisals from Apple, publi...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 22
After taking heat for running ethically questionable data gathering initiatives, Facebook will shutter its Onavo Protect virtual private network app and stop recruiting new users for Facebook Research as it moves to more transparent paid programs.

Onavo Protect


While Onavo Protect will continue to operate as a VPN until users are able to find alternative solutions, Facebook has stopped using the app to gather customer data for market research, reports TechCrunch. The social media giant will pull the app from the Google Play store and shut down operations completely in the near future.

A free app, Onavo Protect bills itself as a consumer protection tool that blocks "potentially harmful websites" and secures personal information on the web. The title was at one time offered to iOS users through the App Store, but Apple forced its removal after discovering Facebook was violating App Store data collection policies.

Facebook discussed the issue with Apple in a series of meetings last August and ultimately agreed to pull Onavo Protect from the App Store, though the app has remained up for download on Google's online app repository for Android.

Today's report notes Facebook has ceased recruiting for the controversial Facebook Research app, another VPN that relied in part on Onavo code to glean user data in the name of research. Unlike Onavo Protect, however, Research compensated users for device access. Facebook Research services will continue operations.

In January, an investigation by TechCrunch revealed Facebook was once again flouting Apple's developer guidelines by deploying Facebook Research through the tech giant's Enterprise Developer Certificate program. Flying in the face of Apple's developer agreement, the app was distributed to members of the general public through beta testing platforms Applause, BetaBound and uTest.

Shortly after the investigation was published, Apple revoked Facebook's certificate, throwing the company into chaos. Without functional privileges, Facebook employees were denied access to private versions of Workplace Chat, Instagram and Messenger, as well as internal housekeeping apps like Mobile Home and Ride.

Apple restored Facebook's certificate some 30 hours after it was pulled.

As implied by today's report, Facebook's travails to reinstate iOS privileges, coupled with the potential for similar grief from Google, might be pushing the company in a new direction. Instead of focusing on unpaid market research, the social network appears to be moving toward paid programs that are more transparent about the information they collect.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    Facebook will not learn the lesson. Their moral DNA is corrupt. Not trustworthy at all 😡
    magman1979Anilu_777racerhomie3christopher126cat52chasmlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 16
    Facebook already lost me and they’re not going to get me back. If I were alone in this they wouldn’t bother doing anything - just stay with the same underhanded practices. Clearly many people are dumping Facebook. They are con artists. 
    edited February 22 applesnorangeschristopher126cat52lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 16
    Make the world a better place.
    Shut down Facebook.

    christopher126cat52chasmlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 16
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,674member
    Users angry that a "free" service sells to advertisers their penchant for cute kitten videos, and calls that a violation of "privacy".  

    Meanwhile, companies like Equifax continue to scurry by hoping no one sees it.

    I just crack up at the idiocy of how people rant.  How do you think Facebook makes money?? Like Google, YOU are their product, and while you use it and enjoy the services it offers - for free - you turn and whine about "privacy".  

    If everyone were to stop using Facebook altogether, they would shut down in a day.  But no, you'll continue using facebook because in 15 minutes, you'll have forgotten all about it and continue watching your kitten videos.

    Give me a break.
    beowulfschmidtchasm
  • Reply 5 of 16
    Make Facebook release all information it knows about its users. It’s time for transparency. 
    christopher126lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 16
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,674member
    Make Facebook release all information it knows about its users. It’s time for transparency. 
    Facebook already allows users to download everything that FB knows about them.
    beowulfschmidtracerhomie3chasm
  • Reply 7 of 16
    I'd really recommend the book "Zucked."

    It's by an early investor and advisor to Mark Zuckerberg. I'm listening to the audiobook version (Apple Books) and it's fascinating how corrupt an individual Zuckerberg is and thereby FaceBook.

    FaceBook is Zuckerberg!

    FaceBook, Google, and Twitter are the cigarette companies of the 80's and 90's. And need to be 'fined' into being good corporate citizens!

    For a start, stop tracking our kids! 

    They should have to pay users for their data!
    edited February 22 cat52chasmwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 16
    irelandireland Posts: 17,645member
    Facebook should hire a CEO with morals.
    applesnorangescat52watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 16
    They sure took their time coming to this decision.  
    cat52lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 16
    sflocal said:
    Make Facebook release all information it knows about its users. It’s time for transparency. 
    Facebook already allows users to download everything that FB knows about them.
    How does one do this?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 16
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,162member
    Facebook and Google make their profit collecting and selling customer data. That business model is being attacked right now but they will prevail. They can’t change their spots and they will find other ways to get your data surreptitiously.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 16
    lkrupp said:
    Facebook and Google make their profit collecting and selling customer data. That business model is being attacked right now but they will prevail. They can’t change their spots and they will find other ways to get your data surreptitiously.
    Right. I imagine they’re only giving up on Onavo Protect because they have found a new way to mine that data that we haven’t heard about yet. But killing Protect let’s them come off as contrite and like they learned their lesson. 
    applesnorangeslolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 16
    I used Facebook many years ago, but happily left the platform well in advance of the now-known issues. At this point, there is exactly *zero* redeeming qualities of the platform and its leadership. Hopefully they will someday be litigated or legislated out of existence. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 16
    sflocal said:
    Users angry that a "free" service sells to advertisers their penchant for cute kitten videos, and calls that a violation of "privacy".  

    Meanwhile, companies like Equifax continue to scurry by hoping no one sees it.

    I just crack up at the idiocy of how people rant.  How do you think Facebook makes money?? Like Google, YOU are their product, and while you use it and enjoy the services it offers - for free - you turn and whine about "privacy".  

    If everyone were to stop using Facebook altogether, they would shut down in a day.  But no, you'll continue using facebook because in 15 minutes, you'll have forgotten all about it and continue watching your kitten videos.

    Give me a break.
    Well said... 
  • Reply 15 of 16
    macguimacgui Posts: 1,354member
    Google's new motto: Don't do evil, and when you do, don't get caught.
    FaceBooks new motto: One way or another, all your data belong to us.

    I don't do FaceBook or Google (or at least try to minimize my exposure to the Big G).
    edited February 23 watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 16
    blah64blah64 Posts: 930member
    sflocal said:
    Make Facebook release all information it knows about its users. It’s time for transparency. 
    Facebook already allows users to download everything that FB knows about them.
    This isn't true, and it's misleading when people keep repeating it.

    1) Facebook maintains shadow profiles of people who do not have accounts.  There is no way to even know what data points they've gathered about you unless you create an account.  If someone doesn't have an account in 2019, clearly they have a reason for not wanting one, so essentially that data is not visible to those people.  https://www.cnet.com/news/shadow-profiles-facebook-has-information-you-didnt-hand-over

    2a) The quantity of data that FB has for most people is so voluminous that people, i.e. humans, can't understand what it means to a huge machine learning system.  This is called Information Asymmetry, and it's an important economic, read here:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_asymmetry

    2b) This is really important, and people just don't understand.  FB will show you a bunch of data points, but they will not show you all their correlated and derived information.  That's the stuff that's dangerous. 

    For example, you can see geo-coordinates of where you've been, and you can even request FB to delete them (though FB is notorious for never actually deleting anything, just making it invisible to you, the user).  But what they will never show you is what information they derive about you from those raw data points.  You tend to stop by at a hotel on Thursday evenings before going home.  That might not seem unusual looking at a map of just your travels; maybe you're a salesperson or you're friends with the evening desk clerk.  But wait, one of your opposite-sex coworkers also stops at that hotel on the same Thursday evenings on the way home, departing at the same time.  FB knows you're both married, and this data has allowed them assign a high likelihood that the two of you are having an affair, which can then serve as input to a bunch of other analyses.  It doesn't even matter if the conclusion is correct or not, this is data that FB has about you that you will NEVER get to see.  It may even be ephemeral, but it exists because the core data exists.

    Just following your location from home to work and back tells them whether you drive, take the train, take the bus, and that in turn serves as inputs to other analyses.  Depending on your mode of transportation and the specific locations that you live and work, they will make determinations about how much money you make, whether you live an active life, whether you're likely to use recreational drugs, and thousands of other assumptions like political affiliations, religious affiliations, etc.  Based solely on your location data, depending on population density where you live, it can be easy to see if you visit a gastrointestinal specialist, or an oncologist, or a rheumatology clinic.  Even if you don't post anything about it.

    But of course people do post, they send "private" messages to their friends, send emails to their doctors' offices, visit web sites with FB trackers (like buttons), they upload their full Contacts List data, and all the other stuff FB users tend to do.  The examples above were based solely on location, imagine what can be derived from all of this information combined.  And then there's the data purchased from data brokers like Equifax, Acxiom, and hundreds of others. 

    Bottom line is that the data points FB shows you are only a small fraction of what FB knows about you.

    Obviously, FB is not the only company that does this.



    edited February 23 mailmeofferslolliverwatto_cobra
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