Congress hears of spyware bribes to teens

Facebook admitted to Congress that four times as many teenagers were paid bribes for unlimited surveillance access than it acknowledged four weeks earlier.

TechCrunch reported on January 29th that Facebook was paying teens $20 monthly gift cards to opt-in to ‘Research App,’ that gave Facebook system administrator rights to surveil all “mobile app activity, web browsing, and even encrypted communications.”

The revelation set off a firestorm as Apple banned all Facebook apps on iOS for violating its ‘Enterprise Certificate’ rules. Facebook shut down Research App and told reporters only 5% of users were teens who had signed parental consent forms.

After TechCrunch reported on January 30 that Google’s Screenwise Meter app was also breaking ‘Enterprise Certificate’ rules, Apple suspended Google iOS apps. Both Facebook and Google were eventually restored by Apple later that day.

Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) requested transparency from CEO Mark Zuckerberg regarding the percentage of 13-18-year-olds who were enticed with $20 in gift cards per month to install the Facebook Research App that gave root network access to spy on all their mobile app activity, web browsing, and encrypted communications.

Facebook’s VP of U.S. public policy Kevin Martin stated in writing that:

“At the time we ended the Facebook Research App on Apple’s iOS platform, less than 5 percent of the people sharing data with us through this program were teens.” 

MIT Technology Review issued a blistering article on February 7 claiming the federal ‘Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule’ that supposedly bans children from joining social media without parental permission, was a failure because a 2017 joint poll for the National PTA and Facebook found three out of five American parents were aware that their under-13-year-olds use messaging apps and social media.

Independent tech analysts claimed that Facebook Research App had paid some teenagers more $1,000 in Visa gift cards. They emphasized that online, the Visa cards could be used to pay for access to porn or purchase of illegal contraband.   

With the scandal refusing to die down, Facebook VP Martin wrote Senator Warner on February 20 to correct the Research App record

“At the time we ended the Facebook Research App on Apple's iOS platform, less than 5 percent of the people sharing data with us through this program were teens. Analysis shows that number is about 18 percent when you look at the complete lifetime of the program, and also add people who had become inactive and uninstalled the app.”

Mr. Martin also stated:

“Potential participants were required to confirm that they were over 18 or provide other evidence of parental consent, though the vendors did not require a signed parental consent form for teen users.”

This author reported here on February 20: “Techlash to Accelerate as Globalism Fades.” With the American public already furious at Silicon Valley outsourcing jobs and disparaging America values, Facebook paying bribes to surveil children is bound to serve as “red meat” for the next wave of congressional hearings.

Facebook admitted to Congress that four times as many teenagers were paid bribes for unlimited surveillance access than it acknowledged four weeks earlier.

TechCrunch reported on January 29th that Facebook was paying teens $20 monthly gift cards to opt-in to ‘Research App,’ that gave Facebook system administrator rights to surveil all “mobile app activity, web browsing, and even encrypted communications.”

The revelation set off a firestorm as Apple banned all Facebook apps on iOS for violating its ‘Enterprise Certificate’ rules. Facebook shut down Research App and told reporters only 5% of users were teens who had signed parental consent forms.

After TechCrunch reported on January 30 that Google’s Screenwise Meter app was also breaking ‘Enterprise Certificate’ rules, Apple suspended Google iOS apps. Both Facebook and Google were eventually restored by Apple later that day.

Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA) requested transparency from CEO Mark Zuckerberg regarding the percentage of 13-18-year-olds who were enticed with $20 in gift cards per month to install the Facebook Research App that gave root network access to spy on all their mobile app activity, web browsing, and encrypted communications.

Facebook’s VP of U.S. public policy Kevin Martin stated in writing that:

“At the time we ended the Facebook Research App on Apple’s iOS platform, less than 5 percent of the people sharing data with us through this program were teens.” 

MIT Technology Review issued a blistering article on February 7 claiming the federal ‘Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule’ that supposedly bans children from joining social media without parental permission, was a failure because a 2017 joint poll for the National PTA and Facebook found three out of five American parents were aware that their under-13-year-olds use messaging apps and social media.

Independent tech analysts claimed that Facebook Research App had paid some teenagers more $1,000 in Visa gift cards. They emphasized that online, the Visa cards could be used to pay for access to porn or purchase of illegal contraband.   

With the scandal refusing to die down, Facebook VP Martin wrote Senator Warner on February 20 to correct the Research App record

“At the time we ended the Facebook Research App on Apple's iOS platform, less than 5 percent of the people sharing data with us through this program were teens. Analysis shows that number is about 18 percent when you look at the complete lifetime of the program, and also add people who had become inactive and uninstalled the app.”

Mr. Martin also stated:

“Potential participants were required to confirm that they were over 18 or provide other evidence of parental consent, though the vendors did not require a signed parental consent form for teen users.”

This author reported here on February 20: “Techlash to Accelerate as Globalism Fades.” With the American public already furious at Silicon Valley outsourcing jobs and disparaging America values, Facebook paying bribes to surveil children is bound to serve as “red meat” for the next wave of congressional hearings.