Maybe there’s something to that popular piece of Internet wisdom that if you’re not paying for a service, you’re the product.
According to a report in The Information, that’s exactly how Facebook treated a group of its users by intentionally crashing the Android app (on a very small subset of users) to test whether or not they’d still use the social network.
This specific incident actually happened several years ago, and was part of Facebook’s contingency planning should it no longer be able to offer its Android app in the Play Store. The research found that people had to get their Facebook fix, even if they had to go to the mobile site instead.
According to the report, Google has apparently threatened to remove Facebook from the Play Store for rules violations in the past. Also, Facebook wanted to be prepared to ditch out of Google Play altogether if the rules or micro-fees for services became too overbearing.
Why this matters: Very few people are likely to up and quit Facebook over this experiment, but it’s pretty sleazy nonetheless. When you go to do social science research on humans you have to get permission—a similar type of standard ought to apply to Facebook’s users. In the end don’t expect Facebook to be going anywhere soon. Google and Facebook need each other too much to let petty differences get in the way.