News

Facebook Allowed Companies Like Netflix and Spotify to Access Your Private Messages

By now you’re probably aware that Facebook, and plenty of the other apps you refresh non-stop every day, is collecting tons of data on you. How else would they serve you those perfectly targeted ads? What you may not have known, however, is that Spotify, Netflix, and other third-parties gained access to your information courtesy of the embattled social media giant.

Facebook made the disclosure on Tuesday in a blog post written as a response to a bombshell New York Timesreport on the matter. Facebook officials claim, however, that they had good intentions, saying they allowed companies like Spotify, for example, to access your messages in order to enable users signed into the music streaming platform via Facebook to send and receive direct messages without having to toggle back and forth between apps.

“Did partners get access to messages? Yes. But people had to explicitly sign in to Facebook first to use a partner’s messaging feature. Take Spotify for example. After signing in to your Facebook account in Spotify’s desktop app, you could then send and receive messages without ever leaving the app. Our API provided partners with access to the person’s messages in order to power this type of feature,” Facebook’s blog post read.

Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook’s director of developer platforms and programs, said in a statement that no companies involved in the site’s data sharing initiative were done without user permission. Bet you wish you’d read those user agreements a little closer now.

“We’ve been public about these features and partnerships over the years because we wanted people to actually use them -- and many people did,” Papamiltiadis said. “They were discussed, reviewed and scrutinized by a wide variety of journalists and privacy advocates.”

Still, former Federal Trade Commission officials have said that Facebook’s newly revealed agreements likely violated regulatory requirements. To his end, Papamiltiadis admitted the social site “needed tighter management over how partners and developers can access information.

According to internal Facebook documents obtained by The Times, Spotify had access to more than 70 million Facebook users’ messages a month. They, along with Netflix and the Royal Bank of Canada (uh…?) could not only read your messages, but write new ones and even delete existing ones. Yeah, that’s totally normal and not at all terrifying…

The good news, if you could call it that, is that both Spotify and Netflix said they had no idea they had that sort of access. The TV/movie streaming service told Business Insider that while it did try different ways “to make Netflix more social,” it didn’t access anyone’s messages. Facebook added that it found no signs of abuse under the agreement.

“Over the years we have tried various ways to make Netflix more social,” a spokesperson said (emphasis theirs). “One example of this was a feature we launched in 2014 that enables members to recommend TV shows and movies to their Facebook friends via Messenger or Netflix. It was never that popular so we shut the feature down in 2015. At no time did we access people’s private messages on Facebook or ask for the ability to do so.

Welp. If anything, now might be a good time to wipe your Facebook messages folder clean or, you know, keep it PG in there.

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Caitlyn Hitt is Daria IRL. Don't take our word for it -- find her on Twitter @nyltiaccc.