Netflix Snooped On Facebook Users’ DMs According To Court Documents

By Douglas Helm | Published


Netflix and Meta are about to have a lot of heat on them. According to recent court documents, Meta allegedly allowed the streaming giant to access the direct messages of Facebook users for almost a decade. This would break anti-competitive activities as well as privacy rules.

Bombshell From An Anti-Trust Lawsuit

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The newly unsealed court documents are from a major anti-trust lawsuit that was filed by Maximilian Klein and Sarah Grabert. The two claim that Netflix and Facebook had a “special relationship” that would allow the streamer to better tailor its Facebook ads. Clearly, this would give the streamer a competitive advantage over multiple other streaming services and markets that Netflix serves.

The lawsuit also claimed that Netflix guaranteed ad spending of $150 million to Facebook in 2017, showing the benefit that Meta would have from this relationship. Additionally, the lawsuit claims that Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings joined the board of directors for Facebook and was a major contributor to closing the streaming service Facebook Watch, which would be a direct competitor to Netflix.

Netflix Granted An Advantage

Klein and Grabert filed the lawsuit in April 2023 forcing Hastings to develop a response to these claims. The lawsuit also claims that Netflix had “bespoke access” to private Facebook APIs (a software intermediary that allows software programs to communicate and share information). Also, that the streamer allegedly had agreements in place for custom partnerships and integrations that would benefit them in Meta’s ad targeting and ranking algorithms. 

Violated User Privacy


Perhaps the biggest bombshell is that Netflix’s API agreement with Facebook allegedly gave it access to private message inboxes. In exchange for this access, the streamer would allegedly send the social media giant a written report every two weeks that indicated the “daily counts of recommendations sent and recipient clicks by interface, initiation surface, and/or implementation variation.” The lawsuit indicates that access to this API, dubbed the Titan API, was granted to Netflix back in August 2013.

Meta has previously said that it doesn’t disclose private messages to partners without their knowledge. In other words, Facebook has indicated that API access only allows partners to send messages and reach users through the API, rather than view private messages. As Meta told Fox Business “Meta didn’t share people’s private messages with Netflix,” adding, “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.”

Facebook Keeps Getting In Trouble Over Privacy


Netflix has not replied to requests for comment at this time. While the allegations against the streamer and Facebook will have to have their day in court, this isn’t the first time Meta has been accused and fined for sharing user information. In 2018, the New York Times reported the social media company gave Spotify and Netflix access to user DMs, which in turn led to explosive growth and boosted ad revenue. 

In 2022, Meta was also fined a hefty sum of $284 million for leaking data of more than half a billion users. The leak was reportedly due to a “bad actor” who exploited a security vulnerability. Meta also paid $725 million as a settlement for a case related to Cambridge Analytica in 2022, so it remains to be seen if this Netflix and Facebook lawsuit ends in a similar settlement.