Study from Facebook: Market research in a responsible way?
Facebook is at it again. The tech giant has released a new reward-based market research app called “Study from Facebook”. This follows an Apple crack down on the company in June 2018 and January 2019 for similar apps which paid users ages 13 to 35 for extensive data on their phone usage.
Learning from past mistakes?
Study aims to be “opt-in” driven, easy to understand and is for adults only.
“We’ll run ads to encourage people to participate in this market research program. When someone clicks on an ad, they’ll have the option to register and, if they qualify, they’ll be invited to download the app. Once invited, they’ll find the Study from Facebook app in the Google Play Store. As they sign up, people will see a description of how the app works and what information they’ll be sharing with us so they can confirm they want to participate. We also notify users on the Study from Facebook website and in the Play Store description about what information we collect and how it will be used. This is all accessible before participants provide any market research information to the app. Anyone who uses the app will be compensated for contributing to the research. Only people who are 18 and older will be eligible to participate at launch, and all participants will be able to opt out at any time.”
These three points are important aspects that Facebook wanted to alleviate after the aftermath of the first programs. The company is also delegating some of the logistics to Applause, a well-known customer experience firm.
In terms of data sharing, Facebook is going for a “less-is-better” approach and sending regular reminders to participants about the information their share.
This is the specific data collected:
.The apps installed on a participant’s phone
.The amount of time spent using those apps
.Participant’s country, device and network type
.App activity names, which may show us the names of app features participants are using
Initially, Study will be available in the US and India. There are further plans to introduce the program to other jurisdictions.
Privacy experts have mixed feelings
Some privacy experts see improvements with this new iteration but still think the consent mechanism and overall tone is problematic.
“Providing users this up front sort of notice is definitely a good thing, and should be the norm for any company which markets, advertises or otherwise makes use of users’ personal information for generating revenue,” stated Nathan Wenzler, senior director of cybersecurity at wealth management firm Moss Adams. “However, human nature has shown us that providing some sort of reward, no matter how small, is often sufficient to make people agreeable to turning over their personal information.” he added.
“Providing users this up front sort of notice is definitely a good thing, and should be the norm for any company which markets, advertises or otherwise makes use of users’ personal information for generating revenue,” Nathan Wenzler, senior director of cybersecurity at wealth management firm Moss Adams
“Restarting a program that was deemed too invasive is a ‘tone deaf’ move from the company given the amount of privacy controversies it has been embroiled in recently,” believes Dimitri Sirota, CEO and co-founder of data privacy company BigID. “This is a mixed bag for privacy. It’s a positive that this is opt-in and transparent. That is necessary, and much better than a secret data tracking campaign. However, the timing and tone is problematic and suspect, only coming after they got caught.”
Time will tell if Facebook has finally learned its lesson.