Facebook caught lying about how many teenagers it spied on

It’s a day ending with Y. So that means Facebook’s been caught lying about something. This time, it’s about that Facebook VPN app from a few weeks ago.

If you recall, Facebook offered users a $20 reward to gain access to their phone usage, allowing them to hoover up data about what apps they used on their phones, how long, what sites they visited and so on.

Upon being caught, Facebook shut down the app and made all the right noises of contrition and vague nice sounding things to reduce anger. most notably, it said that only 5 percent of all users affected were minors.

However, in a letter to US Senator Mark Warner (obtained by TechCrunch), the firm shared details that painted a slightly different story from what it had initially shared with the public.

An excerpt:

At the time we ended the Facebook Research App on Apple’s iOS platform, less than 5 percent of the people sharing data with us through this program were teens. Analysis shows that number is about 18 percent when you look at the complete lifetime of the program, and also add people who had become inactive and uninstalled the app.

Each user was required to complete a clear consent flow prior to participation. Potential participants were required to confirm that they were over 18 or provide other evidence of parental consent, though the vendors did not require a signed parental consent form for teen users.

While Facebook sharing that only 5 per cent of users were teenagers was technically accurate, it appears that this was merely another attempt by the firm to deflect an unflattering situation by providing a technically correct but substantially false explanation.

In response, the UK Register led with the headline “Correction: Last month, we called Zuckerberg a moron. We apologize. In fact, he and Facebook are a fscking (sic) disgrace.”

A slight exaggeration? When legislators are calling the firm “Digital Gangsters”, perhaps “disgrace” is a word that slots right in the middle.

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