Facebook confirmed the existence of the program but took issue with its representation.
“Key facts about this market research program are being ignored,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. “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 on-boarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate. Finally, less than 5 per cent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens. All of them with signed parental consent forms.”
Facebook has been under fire for months over its privacy practices and role in the 2016 US presidential election. In one major data breach disclosed last year, Cambridge Analytica obtained information on millions of Facebook users through a third-party app.
The US Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s chief privacy watchdog, is likely to impose a record fine against the company for failing to protect users’ personal information, Bloomberg News reported this month. The District of Columbia sued the company in December over its handling of user data.