Months after Facebook was forced to shut down two apps it used to collect a creepy amount of data from users in the name of market research, the company is now launching a new app designed to reward users for voluntary feedback.
The new market research app, called Viewpoints, promises to compensate users in exchange for filling out surveys and other tasks. According to the app’s terms of service, users can make up to $600 a year from the app, which pays via PayPal once a user has accumulated a set number of points by participating in its “programs.” Exact details of the points system are unclear, though, and Viewpoints’ terms of service notes that “some rewards may have no cash value.” In a blog post announcing the app, Facebook says the first program it will offer is a “well-being survey.”
“Information from this survey will help us build better products that aim to limit the negative impacts of social media and enhance the benefits,” the company writes.
In the app’s fine print, though, Facebook makes it clear the research app will be used for much more than just surveys. In addition, the app may also require users to complete tasks, demo products or even help improve the company’s artificial intelligence technology “such as by recording the pronunciation of names to improve voice recognition or labeling images to improve image recognition.”
It’s not clear what other “tasks” might be part of the Viewpoints app, or if it would ever ask for users to provide data about their browsing habits or app usage. Though, the app’s data policy does state that it can collect information from your phone, including your browser type, and location data.
Facebook isn’t the first company to offer this kind of market research app. Google also offers payouts for surveys and similar market research, but Facebook’s previous market research tactics have been heavily criticized.
Viewpoints comes months after the social network was forced to shut down virtual private network app, Onavo, following widespread criticism that the app was essentially Facebook spyware. The company used the app to collect information about its users’ browsing history and track competitors like Snapchat and WhatsApp. Facebook was also forced to end another shady market research program, which offered money to teens for letting Facebook spy on their phones.
This time around, though, Facebook is trying really hard not to be creepy. The app has Facebook branding, likely to avoid some of the same criticism that forced it to shut down previous market research efforts, and promises to “explain what information will be collected” before a user opts-into any program. It also won’t sell data to third-parties.
Whether those assurances are enough to persuade people to actually download the app and share even more personal information with Facebook is another matter. But $600 is $600 (assuming you can max out on Viewpoints “programs”). And if the past has taught us anything, it’s that many people were willing to hand over way more to Facebook for a lot less.