Facebook as a company has a troubled reputation, thanks in part due to its unethical practices. Now, a former Facebook data scientist, George Hayward, who worked on Facebook Messenger, has accused the company of “negative testing,” a technique which allows companies like Facebook to run down the battery life of users’ phones without their knowledge to test features, images, and app performance.
As reported by The New York Post, Meta fired George for refusing to take part in the negative testing process. He then filed a lawsuit against the company but had to withdraw the case because Meta’s employment terms required Hayward to argue his case in arbitration. Hayward’s lawyer, Dan Keiser, says this practice of negative testing is illegal and manipulative as many users are not even aware that social media companies can drain their phone batteries intentionally.
In an internal document named “How to run thoughtful negative tests,” Meta provided examples of how to conduct these tests. And after going through the document, Hayward believed Facebook had used negative testing in the past and called it “the most horrible document” he had seen in his career.
Implications of Negative Testing
This practice of intentionally draining someone’s phone battery can put them at risk, particularly in emergencies where they need to communicate with others, such as the police or rescue workers. Hayward says he quickly raised his concerns over the practice but was ultimately fired for refusing to participate.
“I said to the manager, ‘This can harm somebody,’ and she said by harming a few we can help the greater masses,” said Hayward to The New York Post.
The claims of negative testing by Facebook raise serious concerns about the privacy and safety of its users. It’s concerning that a company with such a large audience would engage in such unethical practices.