Meta Allowed Netflix Access to Facebook Users’ Private Messages, Court Documents Claim

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Facebook’s parent company, Meta, has denied the claims that emerged following the unsealing of court documents.

Facebook’s parent company, Meta, has denied allegations that it allowed Netflix to access users’ private messages, following reports that the streaming service paid the Mark Zuckerberg-led company $100 million for the privilege.

The reports began emerging this week following the unsealing of court documents as part of a major lawsuit filed by two U.S. citizens— Maximilian Klein and Sarah Grabert—against Meta last year accusing the social media giant of anti-competitive behavior.

In their lawsuit, the two plaintiffs claimed that Netflix and Facebook enjoyed a “special relationship” for nearly a decade, during which the former allegedly purchased “hundreds of millions of dollars” in Facebook advertisements and entered into a series of agreements on sharing data with Facebook as part of efforts to better tailor content for its users.

Netflix also received “bespoke access” to private Facebook APIs (application programming interface), and agreed to custom partnerships and integrations that helped “supercharge Facebook’s ad targeting and ranking models,” the lawsuit alleges.

APIs are pieces of software that allow two or more computer programs or components to communicate and exchange information with each other.

The legal filing further alleges that by 2013, Netflix had begun entering into a series of “Facebook Extended API” agreements, including a so-called “Inbox API” agreement that “allowed Netflix programmatic access to Facebook’s user’s private message inboxes, in exchange for which Netflix would provide to FB a written report every two weeks that shows daily counts of recommendation sends and recipient clicks by interface, initiation surface, and/or implementation variant.”

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By August of 2013, Facebook allegedly provided Netflix with access to its so-called “Titan API,” a private API that “allowed a whitelisted partner to access, among other things, Facebook user’s ’messaging app and non-app friends,’” the lawsuit states.

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“Once again, this access required that data be shared back to Facebook—and every Extended API agreement was to be kept confidential, including ’the existence and content of the Extended APIs,’” it continues.

By 2015, Netflix was spending $40 million annually on Facebook ads and was allowing its user data to be used for Facebook ad targeting and optimization, according to the lawsuit.

In 2017, Netflix agreed to spend $150 million on Facebook ads and provide the company with “cross-device intent signals,” according to the lawsuit.

Additionally, Meta allegedly began dismantling its multi-billion dollar original content business as part of Facebook Watch to ensure it did not compete with Netflix, the court documents state.

Musk Weighs In

The allegations made in the newly unsealed documents quickly sparked concern online and were further highlighted by billionaire businessman and Tesla founder Elon Musk who expressed his shock at the claims on his social media platform X.

In a statement to Fox Business on April 2, a Meta spokesperson said the company “didn’t share people’s private messages with Netflix.”

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk attends an event at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France, on June 16, 2023. (Joel Saget/AFP via Getty Images)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk attends an event at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France, on June 16, 2023. (Joel Saget/AFP via Getty Images)

“As the document says, the agreement 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. We are confident the facts will show this complaint is meritless,” the spokesperson said.

In a separate statement posted on X on April 2, Meta’s communications director, Andy Stone, also called the claims “shockingly untrue,” while reiterating the Meta spokesperson’s comments.

The Epoch Times has contacted a spokesperson at Meta for further comment.

Elsewhere in the newly unsealed court documents against Meta, the plaintiffs alleged that Facebook secretly obtained proprietary data from competitors, including Snapchat, YouTube, and Amazon, via a program called In-App Action Panel (IAAP) which used cyberattacks to intercept the information.

Meta has not commented on that aspect of the lawsuit.

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.



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