Facebook's banned research app collected data on almost 200K users

The app paid users, including teens, up to $20 a month for data on how they used their phones.

Shelby Brown Editor II
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Shelby Brown
2 min read

Facebook's now-banned research app collected data from thousands.

Graphic by Pixabay/Illustration by CNET

It looks like we now know the number of users affected by a banned Facebook market research app, which paid users up to $20 a month to give the social media site access to how they used their phones. The app, which gained attention earlier this year after Apple blocked Facebook from offering to iPhone users, collected sensitive device data on about 187,000 users, the social network told lawmakers. 

In a letter dated March 1 to Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Ed Markey and Josh Hawley, Facebook said it had collected data on 31,000 users in the US, 4,300 of whom were teenagers. The rest of the data came from users in India, according to the letter. TechCrunch reported on the letter earlier Thursday.

On Tuesday, Facebook released a new research app, called Study From Facebook. It's available only on Android, for users 18 years or older in the US and India. Facebook says the app will analyze what apps are on your phone, how much time you spend on them, your country, and what type of device and network you're on. Users who sign up still get paid for sharing their information and can leave anytime.

On Thursday, Blumenthal expressed concern over Facebook's new market research app. 

"After its previous app was rightly taken down and blocked from operating, Facebook moved more quickly to reintroduce a market research product than it has [moved] to provide any substantial consumer privacy protections or resolve the significant abuse on its platform," the senator said in an emailed statement. "At a time when the company is under investigation for its data practices and anticompetitive actions, the Facebook Study app is at best tone-deaf and ill-considered."

Facebook didn't respond to a request for comment.

Watch this: Is Facebook spying on you?

Originally published June 13, 9:20 a.m. PT.
Update, 1:43 p.m.: Adds comment from Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
Correction, 9:43 a.m.:
An earlier version of this story misstated how Facebook distributed its research app. The app was offered to consumers outside of Apple's App Store, through a program meant to let companies create apps for their employees to use and test.