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Facebook To Shutter iOS Market Research App

Facebook is gearing up to shut down a market research program that relied on an iOS app and reportedly violated the developer guidelines at Apple.

The Verge, citing Facebook, reported the market research app would harvest the data of users’ phones with their consent. The volunteers — who are between the ages of 13 and 35 — were offered $20 gift cards monthly and would give Facebook almost complete access to the data on their mobile phones, reported The Verge, citing TechCrunch.

Facebook is pulling the iOS app from the App Store but will keep the Android version operating, reported The Verge.  The app monitors the activity of the user on the phone and sends it to Facebook, which then uses it for market research, noted the report.  Because users are given a custom root certificate, it violates the Apple developer guidelines. The policy prevents developers from installing certificates on the mobile phones of customers, noted the report.

The report noted that last year Facebook removed another market research app from the App Store dubbed Onavo Protect. The data collected from that would help Facebook identify new rivals and then buy the companies or clone the popular services, reported The Verge. That app was removed after Apple said it violated the guidelines on data collection, noted the report.

“Key facts about this market research program are being ignored,” the company said in a statement to The Verge in response to TechCrunch’s report about the gift cards. “Despite early reports, there was nothing ‘secret’ about this; it was literally called the Facebook Research App. It wasn’t ‘spying’ as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear onboarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate. Finally, fewer than 5 percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens, all of them with signed parental consent forms.”

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The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

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