Sheryl Sandberg defends Facebook data-collecting app: Users 'knew they were involved and consented'

Key Points
  • Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says the company made its market research program "very clear" to users.
  • The comments come as the social media giant is again under fire for privacy concerns.
  • Apple pulled some Facebook developer rights after a report said the social media giant paid users to download an app that allowed it to track all behavior on mobile devices.
'We have a lot of hard work to do preventing harm on our platform': Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg
'We have a lot of hard work to do preventing harm on our platform': Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

Facebook users went through a "rigorous consent flow" before participating in its market research program, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told CNBC.

Apple on Wednesday revoked some Facebook developer privileges after TechCrunch reported that the social media giant paid some users to download an app that enabled the company to track user behavior on their mobile devices, including private messages.

"The important thing is that the people involved in that research project knew they were involved and consented," Sandberg said in an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin after Apple's action.

Sandberg emphasized that Facebook made the project "very clear" to participants and compensated them for their participation.

A Facebook spokesperson told CNBC earlier, "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."

Sandberg's comments came after Facebook posted a record fourth-quarter profit, sending the stock more than 11 percent higher in after-hours trading. The social media company also reported growth in daily and monthly active users.

Facebook delivered those results despite continued bad publicity about the company's privacy practices, which had contributed to a more than 19 percent decline in its stock over the past year.