Facebook secretly drained users’ phone batteries, ex-worker alleges
Facebook can secretly drain users’ smartphone batteries, a former worker has alleged.
The tech giant used a method known as “negative testing” that allows software companies to quietly deplete a device’s power to test new features and snuff out bugs, ex-staffer George Hayward originally claimed in a lawsuit, the New York Post has reported.
The data scientist, who worked on Facebook’s Messenger app, claimed in the litigation that killing someone’s phone battery puts people at risk. He said this was especially the case “in circumstances where they need to communicate with others, including but not limited to police or other rescue workers”.
Hayward, 33, said he was fired by Facebook in November after he refused to carry out negative testing due to his concerns about user safety. He has removed his litigation against Facebook parent Meta, which was filed in a Manhattan Federal Court, but stands by the allegations, according to the New York Post report.
While Hayward said he does not know how many people were affected by the process, he claimed that the company engaged in the practice because he saw an internal document. This was titled “How to run thoughtful negative tests” and included examples of the experiment being conducted.
He said that his protests against the feature fell on deaf ears. “I said to the manager, ‘This can harm somebody,’ and she said by harming a few we can help the greater masses,” he told the New York Post.
Meta had 2.96 billion users across its apps, including Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger, at the last count.
All apps essentially place a load on a phone’s battery when you’re using them, with some continuing to run in the background when they’re idle. However, the biggest culprits have been shown to be those that use other features on your devices, such as your camera or location. This includes social apps such as Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat and LinkedIn, among others.
You can check which apps are gorging on your battery by heading to the settings and selecting “battery” or “battery usage” on iPhone and Android.
Some companies have even created pared-back, lightweight versions of their apps that don’t place as high a strain on phones. These are specifically aimed at less powerful devices with smaller batteries. Notably, Facebook axed its Messenger Lite app in 2020 citing low user adoption.