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New Documents Reveal Facebook Snooped On Users’ Snapchat, YouTube Data In Secret Project

A federal court in California has released new documents accusing Mark Zuckerberg-led Meta Platforms of snooping on Snapchat, YouTube and Amazon users.

According toTechCrunch, Facebook launched a secret initiative called ‘Project Ghostbusters’ in 2016 to intercept and decrypt the network traffic between people using Snapchat’s app and its servers.

The initiative was designed to understand user behaviour and gain a competitive advantage over Snapchat, as per the court documents.

The document also includes internal Facebook emails discussing the project. In an internal email dated June 9, 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg emphasised the need to obtain analytics on Snapchat despite its encrypted traffic.

He wrote, ”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 engineers then proposed using Onavo, a service similar to a Virtual Private Network acquired by Facebook in 2013, to intercept specific subdomains’ traffic. A month later, they presented proposal kits that could be installed on iOS and Android platforms. These kits would intercept traffic for particular subdomains, enabling the team to analyze in-app usage by reading what would typically be encrypted traffic.

The project was later expanded to include Amazon and YouTube. A team of senior executives and roughly 41 lawyers worked on Project Ghostbusters, according to court filings.

”We now can measure detailed in-app activity from ”parsing Snapchat analytics collected from incentivized participants in Onavo’s research program,” read another email.

However, not all Facebook employees were in favour of Project Ghostbusters. Some employees, including Jay Parikh, Facebook’s then-head of infrastructure engineering, and Pedro Canahuati, the then-head of security engineering, expressed their concerns.

”I can’t think of a good argument for why this is okay. No security person is ever comfortable with this, no matter what consent we get from the general public. The general public just doesn’t know how this stuff works,” Mr Canahuati wrote in an email, included in the court documents.

Facebook shut down Onavo in 2019 after an investigation revealed that Facebook had been secretly paying teenagers to use Onavo so the company could access all of their web activity.

Source NDTV

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