It's not just Facebook: Google also pays people to spy on them [Update]

It was just a few hours ago that Facebook was reported to be paying users as much as $20 per month to essentially be able to see everything they do on their phones. Soon after the initial report, Facebook was quickly forced to shut down the service it was using to do so, as it violated Apple's policies.

But, as it turns out, Facebook wasn't the only one giving away money in exchange for data - Google has been doing it too, and it hasn't been banned yet. According to a report from TechCrunch, which also discovered the initial Facebook infraction, Google has been distributing an app called Screenwise Meter, which does essentially the same as Facebook's Research app.

Google is more transparent about the data it collects, however, and there's a guest mode for when you don't want your data to be tracked - though extended use of this mode might get you kicked out of the program. Google's version is also less harmful since it requires users to be 18 or older to join, though users over 13 can also join as part of a household provided there's parental consent.

Screenwise isn't really a new thing for Google. The company launched a rewards program in 2012, which made use of a dedicated router from Cisco, called Screenwise Panel, to collect internet data transmitted on the home network. It has since been rebranded, and its successor, Google Opinion Rewards, is still active, with a promotional video being released as recently as last August.

Of course, this raises concerns over the way Google treats its users' privacy, but the bigger violation here is in regards to Apple. Facebook's Research app was banned because it abused Apple's Enterprise Developer Program, which is meant to be used to distribute apps within an organization without Apple's surveillance. Facebook used this program to make its Research app available to the general public, and Google is doing the same thing, so it should only be a matter of time until Apple takes action. As of the time of writing, neither company commented on the report, but we will update this article if that happens.

Update: Google has confirmed in a statement to TechCrunch that it has shut down the Screenwise Meter app. The company apologized for violating Apple's policy, but defended its approach in regards to user privacy:

The Screenwise Meter iOS app should not have operated under Apple’s developer enterprise program — this was a mistake, and we apologize. We have disabled this app on iOS devices. This app is completely voluntary and always has been. We’ve been upfront with users about the way we use their data in this app, we have no access to encrypted data in apps and on devices, and users can opt out of the program at any time.

Source: TechCrunch

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