A long-standing rumor suggests that the Facebook and Facebook Messenger apps drain the battery on cellphones that have the apps installed. If you believe former Facebook employee George Hayward, a data scientist, Facebook can secretly drain the battery on its users’ cellphones on purpose. As reported by The New York Post, there is actually a name for what it is that Facebook is doing, It is called “negative testing” and it allows tech companies to secretly run down the batteries on someone’s phone in order to test features on an app or to see how an image might load.
Hayward was fired by Facebook parent Meta for refusing to participate in negative testing. “I said to the manager, ‘This can harm somebody,’ 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,” he told the Post.
Hayward was axed by Meta in November and originally filed a lawsuit against the company in Manhattan Federal Court. The 33-year-old worked for Meta’s Facebook Messenger app which delivers text, phone calls, and video calls between users. In the suit, Hayward’s attorney, Dan Kaiser, pointed out that draining users’ smartphone batteries puts people at risk especially “in circumstances where they need to communicate with others, including but not limited to police or other rescue workers.”
The suit had to be withdrawn because Meta’s terms of employment forced Hayward to argue his case in arbitration. Kaiser says that most people have no idea that Facebook and other social media companies can drain your battery intentionally. Commenting on the practice of negative testing, the lawyer added, “It’s clearly illegal. It’s enraging that my phone, that the battery can be manipulated by anyone.”
Originally hired in 2019, Hayward was receiving a six-figure annual paycheck from Meta. But when it came to the company’s request to perform the negative testing, Hayward said, “I refused to do this test. It turns out if you tell your boss, ‘No, that’s illegal,’ it doesn’t go over very well.”
At one point during his employment at Meta, the company handed Hayward an internal training document titled “How to run thoughtful negative tests.” The document included examples of how to run such tests. After reading the document, Hayward said that it appeared to him that Facebook had used negative testing before. He added, “I have never seen a more horrible document in my career.”