Meta Denies Allegations Of Granting Netflix Access To Private Messages Amid Data Privacy Concerns

The allegations stem from a court filing related to a class-action lawsuit concerning data privacy practices involving Meta.
Netflix

Image: Unsplash

Recently, there have been claims circulating on social media platform X regarding Meta (formerly Facebook) allegedly granting Netflix access to users' private messages. These claims gained traction after Elon Musk, the owner of X, reacted to multiple posts about the issue with comments like "Wow" and "Yup." The allegations stem from a court filing related to a class-action lawsuit concerning data privacy practices involving Meta.
The document in question suggests that Meta and Netflix had a "special relationship," with Meta purportedly providing Netflix access to its "Inbox API," allowing the streaming service programmatic access to users' private message inboxes on Facebook. The filing also alleges that Meta reduced spending on original programming for its Facebook Watch video service to avoid competing with Netflix, a significant advertiser on Facebook.
In response to these claims, Meta's communications director, Andy Stone, refuted the accuracy of the document's assertions. Stone clarified on X that while Netflix did have access to Meta's Inbox API, the agreement did not entail sharing users' private messages with Netflix. Instead, it allowed users to message their Facebook friends about what they were watching on Netflix directly from the Netflix app, a practice Stone deemed commonplace in the industry.
Meta's denial contrasts with previous reports, such as one by The New York Times in 2018, which alleged that Netflix and Spotify had access to users' private messages. At that time, Meta denied these claims, stating in a blog post that the access provided to Netflix and Spotify via APIs allowed users to message friends about their activity on those platforms directly, with no third party reading or writing private messages without user permission.
However, it's worth noting that Meta's Messenger platform didn't implement default end-to-end encryption until December 2023, leaving messages potentially vulnerable despite access restrictions. While Stone downplays Netflix's ability to monitor private messages, it's significant that Netflix was granted a level of access not afforded to other companies.
According to the document, Netflix had access to Meta's "Titan API," a private API allowing integration with Facebook's messaging app. In exchange for this access, Netflix agreed to provide Meta with regular reports on its recommendation sends and recipient clicks and to keep the API agreement confidential. The close relationship between Netflix and Meta extended beyond API access, with then-Netflix CEO Reed Hastings engaging directly with Meta executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
To maintain Netflix's advertising business, Zuckerberg reportedly communicated with Meta executives to adjust Facebook Watch's budget, reducing spending on original and sports content by $750 million in 2018 to avoid competing directly with Netflix. This decision came after Facebook had invested in building the Watch business for two years.
The document also reveals Meta's alleged surveillance of Snapchat traffic and other undisclosed activities.
While Meta denies claims that it provided Netflix access to users' private messages, the situation highlights the complexities of data privacy and partnerships between tech companies. Despite Meta's assertions, concerns persist regarding the protection of user data and the extent of access granted to third-party entities. The evolving landscape of data privacy regulations and encryption practices underscores the ongoing need for transparency and accountability in the digital realm.
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