Meta Platforms Accused of Secretly Monitoring Snapchat, YouTube, and Amazon Users

Updated: March 27, 2024, 18:04 IST


  • A federal court in California has uncovered evidence revealing Meta Platforms’ covert project named ‘Project Ghostbusters.’
  • The project aimed to monitor users of Snapchat, YouTube, and Amazon to gain a competitive edge.
  • Concerns have been raised over ethics and user data privacy following the disclosure of internal discussions and practices within Meta Platforms.


Meta Platforms, formerly known as Facebook, finds itself embroiled in controversy once again as a federal court in California uncovers evidence of the tech giant’s clandestine monitoring of users on popular platforms such as Snapchat, YouTube, and Amazon. The revelation sheds light on Meta’s covert project dubbed ‘Project Ghostbusters,’ which aimed to gain insights into user behavior and competition strategies.

According to court documents uncovered during the proceedings, ‘Project Ghostbusters’ was initiated in 2016 with the objective of intercepting and decoding network traffic between Snapchat users and its servers. The move was reportedly driven by Meta’s desire to understand Snapchat’s user base and to outperform its rival in the social media landscape.

Internal discussions among Meta executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, revealed strategic efforts to access encrypted data from Snapchat for analytical purposes. Zuckerberg underscored the importance of acquiring reliable insights into Snapchat’s growing user base, prompting discussions on alternative data collection methods.

To achieve its objectives, Meta engineers proposed leveraging Onavo, a Virtual Private Network service acquired by Facebook in 2013, to intercept and analyze traffic from specific subdomains. Subsequently, ‘Project Ghostbusters’ expanded to include monitoring traffic from other platforms like Amazon and YouTube, implicating Meta in extensive data interception practices.

Notably, court documents revealed the involvement of senior executives and a team of approximately 41 lawyers in ‘Project Ghostbusters,’ underscoring the significance of the initiative within Meta Platforms. However, internal dissent emerged, with concerns raised regarding the ethical implications and privacy concerns associated with intercepting encrypted traffic.

Former heads of infrastructure engineering and security engineering at Meta, Jay Parikh and Pedro Canahuati, respectively, expressed reservations about the project’s legitimacy and ethical considerations. Canahuati highlighted the discomfort among security personnel regarding such practices, irrespective of any obtained consent from the public.

The disclosure of internal dissent within Meta Platforms underscores the ethical dilemmas faced by tech companies regarding user privacy and data collection practices. This latest controversy adds to Meta’s history of privacy violations and underscores the need for greater transparency and accountability from tech giants in handling user data.

As the investigation unfolds, calls for stricter regulations and oversight mechanisms to safeguard user privacy and ensure ethical data practices in the tech industry continue to mount. The outcome of this legal scrutiny will likely shape the future landscape of data privacy and accountability in the digital age.

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