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Mark Zuckerberg Told Meta Engineers to 'Figure Out' Snapchat's Privacy Protections: 'We Have No Analytics on Them' Recently unsealed court documents detail "Project Ghostbusters," Meta's project to work around Snapchat's end-to-end encryption to intercept data.

By Sherin Shibu

Key Takeaways

  • Unsealed court documents released this week offer new insights into the class action lawsuit against Meta.
  • The documents show how Meta allegedly created a program called Project Ghostbusters to work around Snapchat's end-to-end encryption and ultimately access detailed user activity.
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Meta is facing an ongoing four-year, class action lawsuit in California from consumers who allege that the company intercepted data from rivals like Snapchat, used that data to gain a competitive advantage, and then increased prices for advertisers.

Recently unsealed court documents released on Tuesday shed new light on the lawsuit against Meta. The documents detail how Meta allegedly created a program called Project Ghostbusters, named because of the Snapchat logo, to work around Snapchat's end-to-end encryption to see detailed activity from users.

The goal was allegedly to gain a competitive advantage over Snapchat, and then later Amazon and YouTube, by looking into network traffic.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta. Credit: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg sent an email to Meta engineers in 2016 that directed them to get around Snapchat's encryption, according to emails in the lawsuit.

Related: Mark Zuckerberg Is Almost $54 Billion Richer This Year — and He's Closing in on Elon Musk

"Whenever someone asks a question about Snapchat, the answer is usually that because their traffic is encrypted, we have no analytics on them," the letter from Zuckerberg reads. "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."

Meta did figure out how to do this — with a third-party approach. According to The Register, Meta conducted research studies and paid participants to install an app that tracked their phone use. The company could redirect Snapchat analytics traffic, and later Amazon and YouTube analytics, to its servers through permissions enabled on the app.

It could then re-encrypt the data and send it back to Snapchat without Snapchat being aware of what happened.

Related: Mark Zuckerberg Is Becoming Meta's Ultimate Influencer

The plaintiffs argued that Meta did not have Snapchat's permission to intercept its encrypted traffic. Another letter filed in the case from the plaintiffs' lawyer emphasized the consequences of Project Ghostbusters.

"The intelligence Meta gleaned from this project was described both internally and externally as devastating to Snapchat's ads business, allowing Meta to hike North American ad prices companywide 60 percent between 2016 and 2018," the letter reads.

This lawsuit was filed within days of another suit from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission accusing Meta of anticompetitive behavior in an attempt to monopolize social media advertising.

Sherin Shibu

Entrepreneur Staff

News Reporter

Sherin Shibu is a business news reporter at Entrepreneur.com. She previously worked for PCMag, Business Insider, The Messenger, and ZDNET as a reporter and copyeditor. Her areas of coverage encompass tech, business, strategy, finance, and even space. She is a Columbia University graduate.

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