Facebook parent company Meta is facing a massive antitrust lawsuit for allegedly sharing users’ private direct messages with Netflix, allowing the streaming giant to better tailor its advertising on the platform. According to court documents unsealed last week, this “special relationship” continued for nearly a decade and earned Facebook hundreds of millions of dollars—so when users were sliding in the DMs, they may not have been sliding alone.

The lawsuit, first filed by US citizens Maximilian Klein and Sarah Grabert in April 2023, claims that Facebook granted Netflix “bespoke access” to users’ DMs in violation of privacy and anti-monopoly laws. Documents from the suit were not unsealed until March 23rd, at which point the details of the case became public knowledge.

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According to the filing:

By 2013, Netflix had begun entering into a series of “Facebook Extended API” agreements, including a so-called ‘Inbox API’ [application programming interface] 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 (e.g., Facebook vs. non-Facebook recommendation recipients).”

In August 2013, Facebook 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.”

Through this arrangement, Facebook received millions of dollars in ad revenue from Netflix, which in turn was able to target ads to users based on their messages. In 2017 alone, Netflix guaranteed $150 million in ad spending.

The suit also claims that Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings joined Facebook’s board of directors, where he was instrumental in shutting down Facebook Watch, a streaming service competitor to his own company.

Related: Google Settles “Incognito Mode” Lawsuit, Will Wipe Stored User Data

Meta has said in the past that it does not share user information with partner companies without the individual’s consent.

“Meta didn’t share people’s private messages with Netflix,” a Meta spokesperson told Fox Business on Tuesday. “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.”

Despite the denial, the company has previously been accused of mishandling user data, including in 2018, when the New York Times reported that the social media site had given DM access to Spotify and, once again, Netflix.

In 2022, Meta was fined €265 million ($284 million) in Ireland for a leak that published the data of half a billion users, including full names, birthdays, and phone numbers. Later that same year, Meta also paid $725 million in connection to the Cambridge Analytica data breach.

Connor Walcott is a staff writer for Valuetainment.com. Follow Connor on X and look for him on VT’s “The Unusual Suspects.”

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