Facebook can secretly drain its users’ phone batteries, a former employee has claimed in a lawsuit. The employee was fired in November for refusing to participate in the practice known as "negative testing".
It allows tech companies to “surreptitiously” use up people's phone batteries in the name of testing features or issues such as how fast their app runs or how an image might load, data scientist George Hayward told New York Post. He said that he had informed his manager about the problem.
“I said to the manager, ‘This can harm somebody,’ and she said by harming a few we can help the greater masses,” said the 33-year-old claimed.
Hayward has worked on Facebook’s Messenger app, which allows users to send text messages and make audio or video calls. The app is a crucial communication tool in many countries, he told the publication, and it has 1.3 billion users worldwide. It ranks fourth among the most-used social media platform, according to the Digital 2021 Global Overview Report, quoted by New York Post.
“Any data scientist worth his or her salt will know, ‘Don’t hurt people,'” he told the publication.
According to the lawsuit filed against Facebook’s parent company, Meta, killing someone’s cellphone battery puts people at risk, especially “in circumstances where they need to communicate with others, including but not limited to police or other rescue workers."
“I refused to do this test,” Hayward said, adding, “It turns out if you tell your boss, ‘No, that’s illegal,’ it doesn’t go over very well.”
He said he doesn’t know how many people have been impacted by Facebook’s negative testing but believes that the company has been carrying out the testing because he was given an internal training document titled, “How to run thoughtful negative tests,” which cited examples of such experiments being carried out.
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