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Facebook may have used your phone to snoop on Snapchat, Amazon and YouTube

Newly unsealed court documents show how Facebook was snooping on users’ Snapchat, YouTube and Amazon activities as part of ‘Project Ghostbusters’.

A new set of unsealed documents released by a federal court in California has revealed that Facebook was snooping on Snapchat, YouTube and Amazon users. Codenamed ‘Project Ghostbusters’, the Mark Zuckerberg-owned company was intercepting and decrypting network traffic of people using Snapchat.

The documents, which are part of a class action lawsuit between consumers and Meta show how the company was analysing network traffic of users interacting with its competitors. To get around past encryption used by services like Snapchat, Facebook developed a special technology to see what users were doing on other platforms.

In an internal email dated June 9, 2016, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, ‘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.’

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After Zuckerberg sent the email, developers at the company suggested using Onavo, a VPN-like service that Facebook had acquired in 2013. A month later, the team working on Onavo came up with a solution that involved installing ‘kits’ on both Android and iOS devices.

In another email, Facebook said the technique, which is basically a man-in-the-middle attack, allowed “us to read what would otherwise be encrypted traffic so we can measure in-app usage.” According to the court documents, Facebook later expanded the program to snoop on YouTube and Amazon.

Meta’s Onavo unit is not new to controversies. The team has a history of using various techniques to collect user data. After acquiring Onavo from an Israeli firm, Meta had used the service to spy on its competitors via the millions of people who were using the app.

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