WASHINGTON – Facebook paid users, including teenagers, to track their smartphone activities as part of the effort to gather more data that could help the efforts of the social network to fight the competition.
The investigation conducted by the TechCrunch news site said that the effort, known as the Onavo project, was later re-signed as Facebook Research, used to collect information on habits of use.
The news could be a further embarrassment for Facebook, which was under intense control over its failure to counteract manipulation of its platform and share private data with its business partners.
According to TechCrunch, Facebook said it closed the app on Apple iOS on Wednesday after the article was released but apparently kept it active for Android users.
The program is for users aged 13 to 35 pay monthly for a "root" access to their devices to track their location, application usage, spending habits, and other activities.
According to TechCrunch, Facebook claimed that there was no secret in that effort and that she had obtained parental consent for teenagers where needed.
In an AFP statement, Facebook said there were "no secrets" in its efforts, and that Onavo and Facebook Research separated programs.
"It was not" spying "because all the people who signed up for participation went through a clear embarkation process seeking their permission and were paid for participation," he said in a statement on Facebook.
"Finally, less than five percent of the people who decided to participate in this market research program were teenagers, all signing parental consent forms."