As the New York Post reports, Facebook can secretly drain its users’ cell phone batteries to conduct tests. At least that’s what a former employee of the Meta Group claims in a lawsuit. For a long time it was assumed that the already known phenomenon was due to a bug that Meta had not been able to fix so far.

The practice, known as “negative testing,” allows tech companies to drain smartphone battery power to test features or issues. This happens without the cell phone users noticing. For example, it tests how fast an app runs or how an image might load, data scientist George Hayward told the New York Post. Because Hayward refused to participate in those negative tests, he was released, he claims in federal court in Manhattan.

Hayward worked on Facebook’s Messenger app, which allows users to send messages or make phone and video calls. This app is a crucial communication tool in many countries. Facebook Messenger has 1.3 billion users worldwide, making it the 4th most used social media app according to the Digital 2021 Global Overview Report.

Deliberately draining cell phone batteries quickly puts people at risk, especially “in situations where they need to communicate with others, including but not limited to police or other emergency services personnel,” according to the lawsuit against Facebook’s parent company Meta.

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