Facebook tries to explain why Netflix & Spotify were given access to user messages

Yesterday evening, a report offered details on Facebook’s data sharing relationships with over 150 different companies. One of the more jarring allegations related access to messages data. Facebook, however, disputes the details and says it did not disclose people’s private messages to “partners without their knowledge.”

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In a post on its Newsroom site today, Facebook explained that it worked with partners to integrate messaging functionalities into their products. This integration allowed people to message their Facebook friends on the other platforms, so long as they used Facebook to log in.

Humorously, Facebook likens this to using Alexa or Apple Mail to read your email:

We worked closely with four partners to integrate messaging capabilities into their products so people could message their Facebook friends — but only if they chose to use Facebook Login. These experiences are common in our industry — think of being able to have Alexa read your email aloud or to read your email on Apple’s Mail app.

One such partnership was with , allowing people to message friends about what they were listening to. A similar feature was available on . Royal Bank of Canada integration allowed users to access receive receipts from money transfers. Facebook adds that similar integration was available through Dropbox for sharing folders.

The original report from The New York Times outlined Facebook’s relationships with Spotify, Netflix, and the Royal Bank of Canada. That report said Facebook’s deals allowed the companies to “read, write and delete users’ private messages, and to see all participants on a thread,” permissions seemingly not necessary to achieve the functionality Facebook describes.

In its post today, however, Facebook addresses the issue of read/write/delete access to messages:

That was the point of this feature — for the messaging partners mentioned above, we worked with them to build messaging integrations into their apps so people could send messages to their Facebook friends.

These partnerships were agreed via extensive negotiations and documentation, detailing how the third party would use the API, and what data they could and couldn’t access.

In a statement to 9to5Mac, Netflix disputes that it asked for the ability to access private messages or ever do so:

“Over the years we have tried various ways to make Netflix more social. One example of this was a feature we launched in 2014 that enabled 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.”

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