Connecting with friends, spying on ex boyfriends and even sizing up a potential new employee – comes at a cost. Facebook has now pulled the venture.

In its zeal to learn more about its users, Facebook secretly paid volunteers to install a “Facebook Research” app on their phones to monitor their usage. 

The social network pays users up to $20 a month plus referral fees to install the app, which has now been pulled from the iOS App Store by Apple. 

Apple said that Facebook has been distributing a data-collecting app to consumers is “a clear breach of their agreement with Apple.” Any developer who does something similar will have their apps pulled, “which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.

Security expert Will Strafach told TechCrunch that the app gives Facebook “the ability to continuously collect the following types of data: private messages in social media apps, chats from in instant messaging apps – including photos/videos sent to others, emails, web searches, web browsing activity, and even ongoing location information by tapping into the feeds of any location tracking apps you may have installed.”

Once the app is installed, TechCrunch says Facebook gets nearly limitless access to a user’s iOS or Android device.

BGR notes that “the other troubling thing here is the teens and adults involved in this study may not have been completely aware of what they were giving up, by way of giving Facebook extremely broad access to their data.” 

In a statement, Facebook dismissed concerns about privacy. “Key facts about this market research program are being ignored. Despite early reports, there was nothing ‘secret’ about this; it was literally called the Facebook Research App. It wasn’t ‘spying’ as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear on-boarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate. Finally, less than 5 percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens. All of them with signed parental consent forms.” 

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