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What you can do if your child have allowed Facebook to mine their phone for $20/month

Facebook has been paying teens $20 (£15.30) a month to install a new app that monitors almost everything they do on their phone, an investigation by TechCrunch reported on Tuesday

Facebook ran an advert targeting users as young as 13 years old to install a “market research” app that- automatically gives consent to access your kids’ personal data, such as :

  • Private messages in chat apps
  • Photos and videos
  • Emails
  • Web browsing activity
  • Apps  installed, and when they were used
  • Location history of your kids
  • Data usage
  • Facebook even ask your teens to screenshot their Amazon order

To get teens to install their “research” app they are paying 13-17 years old  up to $20 (£15.30) a month to open up their phones to deep analysis (Source: BBC New)

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How Facebook get your kids to sign up to this project:

Facebook ran digital ads to attract users to sign up this project. In the ads Facebook makes no mention that this study is being run by Facebook. This is a screenshot of what the ad looks like :

Facebook defending this project:

Facebook is defending this project by saying that its intention is for market research purposes and to provide better services to its user.

It also states that users have all consented to participate in this research. And the payment provided is standardly used by market research companies.

Facebook argues that it is not spying on teens and for those under 18 years old who would like to participate in the project need to provide parental consent. However, when asked by BBC how parental consent is obtained, Facebook refused to elaborate.

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Why parents should be concerned about this?

The privacy issues with regards to this project are unimaginable. Facebook is exploiting young users to get all their information. We do not know how Facebook is using all this data.

If this ever gets leaked your child’s entire digital life can be exposed. Imagine if your child private photos, videos, and text messages spreads online. The shame that goes with it can follow them for many years to come.

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How can you do protect your child following this incident:

First of all, check your kid’s phone if they have installed an app called Research. If they do not have this installed then you are safe for now. If your kids have this downloaded then you need to continue reading this post.

You might be angry at Facebook for running this project but also be irritated with your teen for allowing Facebook to exploit them. Do not blame your kids for installing this app. Facebook is exploting vulnerability of young users. Anyone can be tempted to get free money. When a 13-year-old sees $20/month for doing nothing he/she will be drawn to it.

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Here are some issues you need to discuss with your child : 

1. Personal information is money

Let your child know that their personal information is worth a lot more than $20/month. They need to value it and protect it.  Talk to them about being selective with the information they provide to apps and websites.

2. They can be spied on

Inform your child that they are potentially being spied by Facebook. Even though Facebook claims that they are not spying on teens but how do we really know what Facebook is doing.  Since Facebook is collecting all the information they have about your child, for all we know they are monitoring everything about their digital lives.

3. They can be accused of a crime

Everyone has the right to privacy, especially children. Facebook collect — and store — untold amounts of data. It’s unclear what it is doing with the data they pick up. And if it’s subpoenaed, they might have to hand it over.

Say your kid jokes about terrorism or something else illegal; if there’s an investigation into those activities, Facebook might have to give up the transcripts.

4. Talk to your child about online safety 

When such an incident happens, talk to your child about the event and the implications of it. Let them know that big tech companies can never protect them online. This goes not just for Facebook but all social media platform.

All the personal information your child have shared can be sucked out of them instantly. Once their data is exposed it is irreversible and Facebook cannot protect them from this.

Finally, don’t forget to install parental monitoring software on your children’s phone. This can help you oversee what sort of apps your child has downloaded. You can tighten their security or prevent them from installing apps that you’ve decided are just too risky or untrustworthy.

 

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Discussion points with your child:

  • Ask them if they have heard about the new research Facebook is conducting 
  • Let them know what the research is about 
  • Ask them if any of their friends have downloaded this new research app  and the consequences of it

 

Here are other tips to you keep children safe in the digital age : 

Instagram : 3 Instagram safety tips for parents

Google : Stop Google from tracking you and your kids every movement

Facebook  : Is it safe for your child to have Facebook facial recognition switched one

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