Facebook Has Been Spying On Snapchat & Amazon For Years

 Facebook Has Been Spying On Snapchat & Amazon For Years

Date: March 27, 2024

Facebook, the social media platform owned by Meta, is facing new charges for breaching encrypted data and spying on apps like Snapchat and Amazon

Meta’s monopoly does not come from the 2.09 billion everyday users interacting with others on their applications. It comes from data that understand various aspects of social behavior, trends, preferences, and dislikes that people express on social media. While most of Meta’s methods have been perfectly white-labeled, it faces a class-action lawsuit for multiple allegations.

The company’s eldest platform, Facebook, has been drawn to the spotlight for running a secret spying project on Snapchat, which expanded to other apps later. Meta’s In-App Action Panel (IAPP) program launched a secret project named Project Ghostbusters, resulting from Snapchat's ghost-like logo. The Federal Court of California has released new documents that indicate Facebook’s direct involvement in such illegal activities. The document also revealed that the project was extended later to Amazon and YouTube.

What’s Project Ghostbusters?

The main purpose of Project Ghostbusters was to gain access to competitor traffic analytics to gain an advantage over them. It launched in 2016 with Snapchat as its primary target. The team wanted to achieve an in-depth understanding of how the users were interacting with their rivals. However, Snapchat has high-end encryption for all conversations and interactions between users and its servers. 

The document included internal Email conversations between Mark Zuckerberg and various stakeholders. One of the Emails written by Mark Zuckerberg on June 9, 2016, was, “Whenever someone asks a question about Snapchat, the answer is usually that because their traffic is encrypted, we have no analytics about them. Given how quickly they’re growing, it seems important to figure out a new way to get reliable analytics about them. Perhaps we need to do panels or write custom software. You should figure out how to do this.”

Facebook’s engineers found Onavo, a VPN-like service, the right tool for the project. It acquired the company and later shut it down in 2019. The technology, however, was fully integrated into Project Ghostbusters. The lawsuit alleges that Facebook was using this technology along with teenagers to monitor their activities. The teenagers were incentivized to participate in the project, with almost no clue what the platform made them extract.

Becoming The Man-In-The-Middle

Facebook took the man-in-the-middle approach, also known as the adversary-in-the-middle attack. Hackers use this method to intercept internet traffic flowing between devices through a network. By keeping the network unencrypted, hackers can read data such as usernames, passwords, and other in-app activity. However, due to high-end encryption, the method completely failed to work on any of the social media platforms or YouTube.

So, the company switched to creating multiple middlemen using the rival apps with tracker software installed. The participants were secretly incentivized under a white-labeled expense. All the above allegations are being scrutinized in the Federal Court of California. Whether the platform wins or loses, you’ll know it first here.

Arpit Dubey

By Arpit Dubey LinkedIn Icon

Arpit is a dreamer, wanderer, and a tech nerd who loves to jot down tech musings and updates. With a logician mind, he is always chasing sunrises and tech advancements while secretly preparing for the robot uprising.

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