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Facebook will close its controversial market research app for iOS

Facebook will end a controversial market research program that violates Apple developer policies to collect volunteer user data. The company said early Wednesday night that the Facebook Research app, which offers volunteers between 13 and 35 years of age $ 20 gift cards a month in exchange for near complete access to the data on their phones, will no longer be available on iOS. It will obviously continue to be available to Android users.

TechCrunch reported Tuesday that the company paid the gift cards to people aged 13 to 35 to install an app called Facebook Research for iOS and Android. The app monitors its phone and web activity and returns it to Facebook for market research purposes.

Facebook previously collected similar data using Onavo Protect, a VPN service it acquired in 201

3. Competitors, then acquire or clone them. Facebook removed the app from the App Store last summer after Apple complained that it violated the App Store's data collection policies.

The Research App requires users to install a custom root certificate so that Facebook can see users' private messages. Emails, web searches and browser activities. This is an apparent violation of Apple system-level functionality that allows employers access to employees' work equipment. The policy prohibits developers from installing certificates on customer phones.

In a statement, Facebook objected to parts of the TechCrunch report.

"Key facts about this market research program are ignored," the company said. "Despite earlier reports, there was nothing" secret ". It was literally called the Facebook Research App. It was not "espionage" because all the people who had applied to attend a clear entry process that asked for permission and was paid for it. After all, fewer than 5 percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were young people. All with signed parental consent forms.

The company also denied that Facebook Research should replace Onavo, although it did not respond to evidence that the apps had a similar code.

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