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Facebook defends app that 'preys' on kids

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (Wikimedia Commons)

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has been accused of lying for insisting in an interview that teens who took part in a controversial “research project” that monitored their phone activity had “consented.”

Sandberg contended in an interview with CNBC that the teens agreed to share the information and therefore knew what they were getting into, the Daily Mail of London reported.

“I want to be clear what this is. This is a Facebook research app,” Sandberg said. “It’s completely opt-in. There is a rigorous consent flow and people are compensated.”

She said the “important thing is that people involved in that research project knew they were involved and consented.”

However, the participants were not explicitly told that the app would collect all of their phone and website activity, the Daily Mail reported.

In addition, it tracked apps they downloaded, monitoring when they used them and what they did on them.

Sandberg claims Facebook pulled the app after it “realized we weren’t in compliance with the rules on [Apple’s] platform.”

But Apple said it removed the app because it violated its data collection policies, the Daily Mail reported. And it banned Facebook from using any of its internal apps.

“I find this behavior shameful. Taking advantage of people who do not understand the value of the data they generate,” tweeted Claudiu Musat, director of research for Data, Analytics and AI at Swisscom, the Daily Mail reported.

“Targeting kids of all people! As a parent I’m appalled. I am so happy I stopped using Facebook years ago.”

Another expert told the London news site that Facebook’s actions were “beyond the pale.”

“I used to think a reasonable response to Facebook was simple ‘break them up,'” tweeted David Heinemeir Hansson, a Danish programmer and partner of web application company Basecamp.

“But maybe the real solution here is more akin to ‘shut them down.’ Their incessant preying on kids and teenagers is beyond pale. From 5-year old ‘whales’ to bribing 13-year olds for spying rights.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg blamed Sandberg for the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which Facebook turned over the personal data of 87 million users to the British political research firm.

The Daily Caller noted that many wondered whether Sandberg would keep her job.  But Zuckerberg said in a recent CNN interview he hopes they will continue to “work together for decades to come.”