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By Bruce Sussman
Thu | Jun 13, 2019 | 4:45 AM PDT

Is Facebook's latest privacy and security effort for real?

The company just introduced "Study," a new app for market research.

And this time, Facebook claims it can do research on users while also protecting their privacy. Keep reading to see if you believe it.

Facebook touting new app and privacy, security

The Facebook Newsroom introduction for Study continually stresses "transparency, clarity, safety, and security":

We have a responsibility to keep people’s information safe and secure. With this app, we’re collecting the minimum amount of information needed to help us build better products.

Study from Facebook does not collect user IDs, passwords, or any of the participant’s content, such as photos, videos, or messages. We also don’t sell information from the app to third parties or use it to target ads, and it is not added to a participant’s Facebook account if they have one.

And if you're willing to help with the research, Facebook will pay you:

We’re offering transparency, compensating all participants, and keeping people’s information safe and secure.

Lofty promises from a company with a long track record of privacy disappointments.

What flashes to mind is that sign in a Facebook Congressional hearing listing all the times Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had apologized to Congress:


How will Facebook Study app work?

For one thing, the Facebook announcement says it will recruit people to participate in Study and download the app:

We’ll run ads to encourage people to participate in this market research program. When someone clicks on an ad, they’ll have the option to register and, if they qualify, they’ll be invited to download the app.

As they sign up, people will see a description of how the app works and what information they’ll be sharing with us so they can confirm they want to participate. This is all accessible before participants provide any market research information to the app.

Anyone who uses the app will be compensated for contributing to the research.

So Facebook is offering compensation for research. And seemingly being upfront about user privacy.

Can we believe Facebook on privacy of market research app?

Nathan Wenzler, Senior Cybersecurity Director at consulting firm Moss Adams, puts Facebook's situation like this:

“This is an interesting step for Facebook, as it shows a more forward attempt to be transparent and open about how user information is collected and what will be done with it.

Providing users this up front sort of notice is definitely a good thing, and should be the norm for any company which markets, advertises or otherwise makes use of user’s personal information for generating revenue."

However, he is also wary about the "compensation" part of Study's model:

"Human nature has shown us that providing some sort of reward, no matter how small, is often sufficient to make people agreeable to turning over their personal information. People will often willingly forego privacy in order to get whatever reward is promised."

[RELATED: American view of facial recognition—depends on what you get]

And Terence Jackson, Chief InfoSec Officer at Thycotic, also reminds us of the risk behind associating with the company:

"Consumers need to be careful. Facebook has had a series of lapses in regards to data privacy recently.

Even though they are promising data safety, and only to collect the minimum amount of data to make their products better, I would say it is not worth the payout."

What do you think? Is Facebook's latest privacy and security effort for real?

Tags: Facebook, Privacy,