Meta (again) denies that Netflix read users’ private Facebook messages

Meta denies giving Netflix access to users’ private messages. The claim recently started circulating on after X owner Elon Musk amplified several posts on this subject by answering “Wow” And “Yeah.” The claim refers to a court filing that emerged as part of the discovery process in a class-action lawsuit over data privacy practices between a group of consumers and Facebook’s parent company, Meta.

The document alleges that Netflix and Facebook had a “special relationship” and that Facebook even reduced its spending on original programming for its Facebook Watch video service so as not to compete with Netflix, a major Facebook advertiser. It also says Netflix had access to Meta’s “Inbox API” which gave the streamer “programmatic access to Facebook users’ private message inboxes.”

This is the part of the claim that Musk responded to in posts on X, leading to a chorus of angry responses about how Facebook user data was for sale, so to speak.

Meta, for his part, denies the accuracy of the document’s claims.

Meta Communications Director Andy Stone reposted the original post Tuesday with a statement disputing that Netflix had access to users’ private messages.

“This is shocking and false,” Stone wrote on X. “Meta has not shared people’s private messages with Netflix. The deal allowed people to message their friends on Facebook about what they were watching on Netflix, directly from the Netflix app. Such agreements are commonplace in the industry.

In other words, Meta claims that Netflix had programmatic access to users’ inboxes, but did not use that access to read private messages.

Beyond Stone’s X-rated post, Meta provided no further comment.

However, the New York Times previously reported in 2018 that Netflix and Spotify could read users’ private messages, according to documents obtained. Meta denied these claims at the time via a blog post titled “Facebook Messaging Partnership Facts” in which he explained that Netflix and Spotify had access to APIs that allowed consumers to message their friends on what they were listening to on Spotify or watching on Netflix directly from these companies’ respective apps. This required companies to have “write access” to compose messages to friends, “read access” to allow users to reread their friends’ messages, and “delete access” , which meant that if you deleted a post from the third-party app, it would also delete the post from Facebook.

“No third party read your private messages or write messages to your friends without your permission. Many reports imply that we are sending private messages to partners, which is not correct,” the blog states.

Regardless, Messenger only implemented end-to-end encryption by default in December 2023, a practice that would have rendered these kinds of claims futile, as it would have left no doubt. The lack of encrypted communications combined with read/write access to message inboxes means there is no guarantee that messages are protected, even if that was not the intent of the agreement commercial.

While Stone downplays Netflix’s ability to spy on private messages, it’s worth noting that the streamer enjoyed a level of access that other companies didn’t have.

The document claims that Netflix had access to Facebook’s “Titan API,” a private API that allowed it to integrate with Facebook’s messaging app. In exchange for access to the Inbox API, Netflix also agreed to provide the social media company with a “bi-weekly written report” containing information about its recommendation submissions and recipient clicks and agreed to keep its API agreement confidential.

In 2015, Netflix spent $40 million on Facebook ads, the document says, and allowed Netflix user data to be used for Facebook ad targeting and optimization. In 2017, Netflix agreed to spend $150 million on Facebook ads and provide the company with “cross-device intent signals.”

Netflix and Facebook have maintained a close relationship, with then-Netflix CEO (and Facebook board member until April 2019) Reed Hastings having direct communications with Facebook executives (Meta), including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, COO Sheryl Sandberg, VP of Communications Elliot Schrage and CTO Andrew Bosworth. .

To maintain Netflix’s advertising business, Zuckerberg himself emailed Facebook Watch head Fiji Simo in May 2018 to tell him that Watch’s budget for originals and sports was being cut by $750. million dollars while the social network stopped competing directly with Netflix. Facebook had been developing the watch business for two years and only introduced the Watch tab in the United States in August 2017.

Elsewhere in the filing, Meta details, among other things, how he secretly spied on Snapchat traffic.


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