Mobile app VPNs

Posted by on January 29, 2019 · 1 min read

FB was recently criticized for paying users $20 to download a “research app” that collects all their mobile device activity. The goal for Facebook? Understand how users interact with other apps within the mobile ecosystem.

This is obviously press worthy, and worth healthy debate, but the news does not address the fact that other companies (not Facebook) have been capturing this same kind of data, in the same way, for years. Moreover, these companies don’t compensate the users for the information they hand over willingly. Moreover, they package this data and sell it directly to other third parties for a profit! This is arguably worse than what FB does which is just analysis.

As an example, companies that focus on estimating mobile app revenue for other apps, have historically bought and launched similar apps back in 2012; users downloaded and possibly installed private network certificates giving developers root access to some of the activity all apps on devices. I’m really glad that the press covers facts like this because it’s definitely worth the debate, but I really don’t appreciate how they miss the bigger picture on how it’s not JUST FB. I wouldn’t be surprised if other companies have abused this same type of technology to uncover similar things.

It’s important to cover the debate, but please get the full picture.

(UPDATE: As suspected Google was doing this also.)