Facebook has reportedly collected personal and sensitive data of 187,000 users via its Research app. The social media giant gathered data from 31,000 users in the US, of which 4,300 users were teenagers. Most of the users whose data was collected are located in India.

According to a report by TechCrunch, Facebook used its now-defunct Research app, which Apple banned earlier in the year after discovering that the app was violating its policies. TechCrunch reported that the Research app was paying users in exchange for their data. Although Apple banned the app, it claimed that it was not aware of how many devices had the Research app installed.

Facebook's Research app involved users willing to download the app from a third-party app store and use Apple-issues developer certificates to install it. The app collects all of a user's device data by installing a root network certificate. This allows the app to collect not just a user's data but also data from their friends. Facebook reportedly recently relaunched its Research app, which has been rebranded as “Study”. The app is currently available only via the Google Play Store.

"After its previous app was taken down and blocked from operating, Facebook moved more quickly to reintroduce a market research product than it has to provide any substantial consumer privacy protections or resolve the significant abuse on its platform,” Senator Richard Blumenthal told TechCrunch. “At a time when the company is under investigation for its data practices and anticompetitive actions, the Facebook Study app is at best tone-deaf and ill-considered.”

Tech firms seek to circumvent UK spy bill’s surveillance capabilities Critics of Snooper's Charter warn that cybercriminals could end up gaining access to user data. Photo: IStock

Despite increasing scrutiny from lawmakers and the media in the wake of several data breaches and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook continues to pursue means of gathering users' information. This indicates how highly the social media giant values market research. However, Facebook is not alone in such data collection. Tech giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple are currently the focus of investigations by both the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission for violating US anti-trust laws.