A data scientist who previously worked for Facebook parent company Meta claimed in a lawsuit that the company’s apps could deliberately drain the batteries of smartphones for testing purposes.
Speaking to the New York Post, George Hayward detailed Meta’s ‘negative testing’ practice, which involves running down the battery in someone’s smartphone to test how apps and features might run in low-battery scenarios. Hayward says he raised concerns about the practice with his manager, saying it could harm someone. The manager, according to Hayward, said that by harming a few, the company could help the masses.
Hayward claims he was fired for refusing to do negative testing over the potential risk of draining someone’s battery when they might need it, such as for a 911 call or Crash Detection.
Moreover, Hayward said he believed Meta engaged in the practice because of internal documents he viewed that included examples of negative testing experiments being carried out.
But before you go deleting your Facebook app, it’s worth pointing out these are significant claims and, at this point, I think we need to know more first. I’d say wait to see how the lawsuit plays out, but Hayward’s lawyer withdrew the suit because Hayward is required to go to arbitration. Hayward told the Post that he stands by the allegations.
While I wouldn’t be surprised that Meta (and most tech companies, for that matter) have testing for measuring app performance under low battery conditions, I would be surprised if that testing was being used on people’s apps without their knowledge. This is the type of thing that would be available on internal versions of apps used for, you know, testing things, not the production apps released to users.
Of course, Meta has done shady things before — and likely will again. For now, we just don’t know.
Image credit: Shutterstock