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Facebook unveils new paid research app to track competitors

Facebook’s Study app will be available only in the US and India for now.

tech Updated: Jun 12, 2019 17:01 IST
Kurt Wagner
Kurt Wagner
Bloomberg
facebook,facebook study,facebook onavo
Facebook’s new research program is called ‘Study’.(REUTERS)

Facebook Inc. wants help keeping tabs on competitors, and is willing to pay users to do it.

The social giant Tuesday unveiled a new research app called Study that will collect data on which smartphone apps people download, what features they use inside those apps and how much time they spend on them. Facebook said it will promote Study through advertisements on the social network and elsewhere, and users must be 18 years or older to participate.

Facebook said it will compensate those who download Study, but a spokeswoman declined to share more details. For now, the app will only be available in the U.S. and India.

The company isn’t new to this kind of research, and uses it to monitor competitors, learn about emerging trends and even identify popular startups as potential acquisition targets.

It’s clear, though, that Study is meant to be more transparent than some of Facebook’s previous endeavors. The company shut down a similar research effort earlier this year after it was learned Facebook was collecting data from teens. In that instance, the Facebook Research App was removed from Apple Inc.’s App Store for violating the phone maker’s policies on data gathering.

In retaliation, Apple temporarily suspended all of Facebook’s internal apps, including those that employees use to schedule meetings and look up shuttle schedules, essentially bringing many of the company’s processes to a halt. Facebook quickly disbanded the research effort. Not coincidentally, its new Study app is available only on Android-operated mobile phones.

Around that time, Facebook also shut down Onavo, a separate app it offered that routed a user’s web activity through a virtual private network to make it more secure, but also gave Facebook valuable insights into internet activity and behaviour.

First Published: Jun 12, 2019 15:55 IST