Facebook 'Drained User Batteries Deliberately'

John Lister's picture

A former Facebook employee says the company deliberately drained the batteries of users as an experiment. George Hayward made the claims in a lawsuit that he has now withdrawn.

Hayward says he was fired for refusing to work on the experiments. He originally sued the company, but has now withdrawn the case because of a rule that says he must go to arbitration.

The lawsuit said the possibility of completely draining a battery and making phones inoperable put users at risk. This was especially the case "in circumstances where they need to communicate with others, including but not limited to police or other rescue workers."

Although the case was primarily about wrongful dismissal, the lawsuit alleges that Facebook broke New York laws against "criminal tampering in the third degree" by damaging property.

"Thoughtful Negative Tests"

Hayward said he worked on the Messenger app. He claims he was fired after refusing to take part in what the company called "negative testing." He also says the experiments were explicitly detailed in an internal training document entitled "How to run thoughtful negative tests."

According to the lawsuit, Hayward's supervisor responded to his objections by saying that "by hurting a small number of people, we could help a much larger number of people." (Source: regmedia.co.uk)

According to the New York Post, which first covered the case, the stated reasons for the experiments included testing features, finding out how fast an app could run, and testing the speed at which images load.

Questions Remain

The New York Post report did not detail how draining the battery fit into such experiments, the speed at which batteries were drained, or whether Facebook had any rules on how much battery life should be consumed in this way.

It's also unclear what stage of testing the program reached and how many users may have been affected.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment by the New York Post and, at the time of writing, has yet to publicly address the claims. (Source: nypost.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Does Facebook have the right to carry out such experiments? Should it explicitly warn users or get permission first? Would it make a difference if the company made sure it didn't drain batteries completely?

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Kookie's picture

I don't trust Facebook - I won't use their messenger - and I won';t put it onto my cellphone. I only use it at home on my desktop, and I log in AND out every time I do go on. Only reason I'm on there at all is to keep up with a few out-of-state friends.

dwightlightnin's picture

How do I enter the admin files with lock icons? I'm set as an admin but still can't even get a strai8 answer. What's up with the programs above and beyond" PEGUSUS"?

matt_2058's picture

I'm sure that experiment violated their terms of use where they define what the user is allowing them to do. I've completely read only a few ToS and Privacy agreements and don't recall any saying they could control my machine. They have control over their app, and that affects the machine. But to set out to control or affect the machine is different.

I don't trust most apps from corporations anyway. There's always an additional motive beyond the simple use it portrays.

As for Facebook, there's no question about what it, the company, is about...collecting data on people. I don't use it. When I want or need to know about a friend or relative, I call or text them. And when it comes to mass dissemination of info, I have two aunts that act like an info hub. We look at it as redundancy!