Facebook: Bustin’ Ghosts (And Your Privacy)

Remember that childhood game of broken telephone where secrets got twisted and mutated with each retelling?  Imagine Facebook playing a similar game, only instead of whispering secrets between friends, they’re trying to listen in on your encrypted messages  –  creepy, right?  Well, buckle up, because that’s exactly what newly unsealed court documents allege Facebook did with a project called “Project Ghostbusters” (and no that name isn’t an April Fools!).

According to the documents, Facebook wanted to get the inside scoop on Snapchat users, their mortal enemy in the social media world  (remember those flames?).  The problem? Snapchat uses encryption, basically a fancy way of scrambling messages so only the sender and receiver can understand them.  Enter Project Ghostbusters, Facebook’s not-so-supernatural plan to crack the code.

Here’s where things get even spookier. Facebook allegedly used a shady VPN service called Onavo to basically eavesdrop on encrypted traffic.  Think of it like a digital adversary-in-the-middle, silently intercepting messages before they get scrambled and passed on.   This should send shivers down the spine of any internet user. Encryption is supposed to be our shield in the wild west of the web, and VPN’s a key tool, but Facebook seems to have been working on ways to bypass those protections.  These techniques were aimed at other companies too including Amazon and YouTube.

Thankfully, the documents show that even within Facebook, some employees weren’t too thrilled with Project Ghostbusters.  Security engineers, the real-life ghostbusters in this story, raised concerns about the ethics and legality of the whole operation.  And while it seems Project Ghostbusters never fully materialised, the whole ordeal is a chilling reminder that tech giants and others might be lurking in the shadows, looking for ways to weasel their way into our supposedly private online lives.

So, the next time you hit send on an encrypted message, remember: ghosts might be watching…  Be sure to use strong encryption tools and keep an eye out for shady data practices. After all, a little online privacy goes a long way, and if you’ve been reading our blogs for a while you should by now know who you gonna call…

References: Facebook snooped on users’ Snapchat traffic in secret project, documents reveal | TechCrunch