After a year of scandal and what seems to be a growing carelessness over user data and privacy, it was recently discovered that Facebook was paying minors to install a "Facebook Research" VPN app on their phones.
According to TechCrunch's interview with Will Strafach, a security expert at Guardian Mobile Firewall, this app would give Facebook "the ability to continuously collect the following types of data: private messages in social media apps, chats from in instant messaging apps – including photos/videos sent to others, emails, web searches, web browsing activity, and even ongoing location information by tapping into the feeds of any location tracking apps you may have installed."
The most alarming part of this is how Facebook walks the user through various steps to provide the social media platform with root access to your device, a level that allows whoever has said access the ability to modify or install software that the manufacturer normally would not allow or intend for you to do. Specifically targeting minors with this task is particularly alarming since most teenagers, or average people, do not know what they're actually opening themselves up to when doing this.
Shockingly enough, Facebook has been doing this since 2016 and even ran into issues with some of their apps being banned from the Apple iOS App Store for breaking their data protection policies. Facebook instead sought to find a way to still get their app onto teenagers devices by "side-loading" the app, which is a method to subvert the Apple protected iOS App Store garden. They even avoided Apple's beta testing program to avoid any restrictions.
Facebook is motivated to gather data on which apps you have, how you use them, and when you use them in order to find out when and how to make competing products. Of course they also want to sell your data. They did this all while bypassing any apps encryption (simply explained: what keeps your data and activity private) because the user gave Facebook root access to bypass all of that.
But hey, at least these kids got $10 or $20 dollars a month for it. They even got more money for referring their friends to the program.
If you're a parent, I'd double check your children's phone and spread the word.
Update (7:26 AM PST - 01/30/19):