Facebook, it's worth noting, is completely denying the claims.
Do No Harm
For years now, Facebook Messenger users have suspected the app is draining their smartphone batteries — and a lawsuit from a former employee who worked on it lends new credence to that suspicion.
In an interview with the New York Post, former Facebook data scientist George Hayward claims that the company directed him to do exactly that — and that when he refused, he was fired.
Hayward alleges in his Manhattan Federal Court lawsuit that he was fired when he refused to engage in the practice known as "negative testing," which is, in essence, when tech companies covertly test out the limits of users' systems. In the case of Facebook Messenger, this played out with the app allegedly being used to see how much data users' phones could handle — and draining their batteries in the process.
"I said to the manager, 'This can harm somebody,'" the plaintiff and apparent comedian told the NY Post, "and she said by harming a few we can help the greater masses."
"Any data scientist worth his or her salt will know, ‘Don’t hurt people,'" Hayward added.
Bad Bad Not Good
A spokesperson for Facebook's parent company Meta was dismissive of the explosive claims, though.
"Here is a statement you can use for your article," they wrote. "Mr. Hayward’s claims are without merit."
The whistleblower said that he believes the company already had engaged in negative testing based on a document he was given by his supervisor titled "How to run thoughtful negative tests" that featured what appeared to be real-world examples.
"I have never seen a more horrible document in my career," Hayward told the NY Post.
Hayward's attorney Daniel Kaiser told Futurism that the complaint is now headed toward internal arbitration at Meta, Facebook's parent company, and that the federal suit has thusly been withdrawn.
All the same, the whistleblower reportedly stands by his allegations in the suit, which included that the company might be doing harm to people who rely on Messenger "in circumstances where they need to communicate with others, including but not limited to police or other rescue workers."
Kaiser told the NY Post that he finds the alleged practice "enraging" and "clearly illegal" — and depending on how far the case makes it through Meta's internal arbitration process, it may eventually come to a stop, or at very least be publicized further.
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