Monday, November 28, 2022

Another Facebook discovery: Invade privacy for a price

by Terri Dickerson Cda Consumer Gal
| February 11, 2019 12:00 AM

Did you know Facebook has been paying people to install a “Facebook Research” app on their smartphones that lets the company follow all of the user’s phone and web activity? This app is similar to Facebook’s Onavo Protect app that Apple banned in June 2018 due to privacy violations.

But now it seems they figured out a way to sidestep the rules and reward teens and young adults (Facebook is targeting 13-35 year olds) with a monetary incentive to download the Research app and give it access to all the user’s activity. Facebook admitted to TechCrunch, a tech online publisher, that it has been running the Research program to gather data since 2016.

Facebook pays these users up to $20 per month plus referral fees to sell their privacy by installing the iOS or Android “Facebook Research” app. Once installed, the user must keep it running and sending data to get paid. Facebook also asks users to screenshot their Amazon order history page so they can track that information.

Facebook seems most concerned with accessing customers’ behavior and ordering information so they can study the browsing habits, usage patterns of other apps along with purchasing preferences. This information would allow Facebook to pinpoint targeted ads and try to understand what users want to buy because the app gives them nearly unlimited access to the user’s device.

Furthermore, this app gives Facebook continuous access to the most sensitive data about users, and most are not able to reasonably consent to this regardless of any agreement they sign because there is no way to know how the power is handed to Facebook through the agreement, not to mention they might be too young to give such authorization.

It seems that Facebook has found a price users are willing to sell their privacy for. If you or someone you know has installed this app, you might want to delete it since the bounds of how Facebook will use the information could surprise you.


TURN OFF FB ADS: Are you tired of getting pop-up ads when you’re on Facebook even if they’re trying to figure out what you want to buy based on your browsing history? If you’d rather not see those ads, you can turn them off in your settings. Here’s how:

Log into Facebook and in the upper right hand corner there’s a down arrow. Click it. A menu will appear, so choose settings and click to select. Then another menu will appear on the far left of your screen. Select ads and scroll down to ad settings. The ads you want to turn off or disallow are ads based on your activity on Facebook company products.

Facebook believes they’re being helpful by using data from our activity on the site to make the ads more relevant to us, but sometimes it’s a little creepy. I turned these ads off so hopefully now it won’t seem like I’m being watched.


AREA CODE ALERT: Tax season is officially here and so is an increase in scam calls from the IRS. Hiya (a smartphone app provider that protects against robocalls) has reported an increase of 1,218 percent in just the last year.

I’ve had quite a few calls in the last couple of weeks from readers complaining about an increase in calls from the IRS. The calls are getting more intimidating, demanding immediate payment and threatening legal action or arrest unless the person complies with the demands.

The caller will often use caller ID spoofing to make it appear that their number is from the IRS, but don’t fall for it. According to Hiya these are the top area codes to watch out for:

202: Washington, D.C.

206: Seattle

315: Upstate New York

470: Atlanta

631: Central and East Long Island, N.Y.

314: St. Louis, Mo.

415: San Francisco

786: Miami

646: New York City

A couple of readers have said the numbers are from area code 208 as well.

The IRS will NEVER contact you by phone or demand immediate payment. They’ll contact you through regular mail.

If you receive such a call, delete it or hang up on the caller. It’s a scam. Or better yet, just don’t answer the call. If it’s someone you know or someone who needs to talk to you, they’ll leave a message.


Remember: I’m on your side.


If you have encountered a consumer issue that you have questions about or think our readers should know about, please send me an email at or call me at 208-274-4458. As The CDA Press Consumer Gal, I’m here to help. Please include your name and a phone number or email. I’m available to speak about consumerism to schools, local and civic groups. I’m a copywriter, columnist and consumer advocate living in Coeur d’Alene.

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