Over the last year, Big Tech firms have laid off over 70,000 people worldwide. Workers at major technology companies such as Alphabet, Amazon, Meta, Twitter, Microsoft, and Salesforce have been laid off in large numbers. Tesla, Netflix, Snap, and Spotify have also cut several jobs, but their layoffs are markedly smaller than larger firms. A former Meta employee has reportedly filed a lawsuit against the firm, claiming that Facebook knowingly drains users’ phone batteries under the guise of testing features. The ex-worker has also claimed he was fired when he noted this practice as a harmful one, and refused to participate in it.
According to a New York Post report, George Hayward is a 33-year-old data scientist who claims to have worked at Facebook on its popular Messenger chat application. In a lawsuit filed against the firm, Hayward said he came across an internal training document titled “How to run thoughtful negative tests,” where examples of experiments where users’ batteries were secretly, but quite intentionally drained in the guise of testing certain features of the app, as per the report. The practice, Hayward notes is called “negative testing.”
“I have never seen a more horrible document in my career,” Hayward said, according to the report. “I said to the manager, ‘This can harm somebody,’ and she said by harming a few we can help the greater masses… 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,” he added. However, the report does not provide additional details of the document mentioned by Hayward.
The former employee reportedly claims that he does not know the exact amount of people impacted by this practice but believes Facebook has engaged in the activity due to the existence of the internal training module. According to the report, the lawsuit that he filed against Meta in the Manhattan Federal Court sought undefined damages and has since been withdrawn because Hayward needed to go to arbitration, according to his lawyer, who also stated that Hayward continues to stand by his claims.
Draining someone’s mobile phone battery tends to put people in danger, particularly “in circumstances where they need to communicate with others, including but not limited to police or other rescue workers,” the lawsuit filed against Meta reportedly reads.
The report states that Hayward was hired in October 2019 and was fired last November, which he claims was a result of his refusal to participate in “negative testing,” according to the report. It is worth noting that Facebook parent Meta laid off more than 11,000 employees, or 13 percent of its workforce that month, in what was one of the biggest layoffs in the tech sector in recent years.