Facebook Messenger Kids App Fails To Deliver On Privacy Protection

Yolanda Curtis
July 24, 2019

The technology giant told thousands of users affected that a "technical error" allowed these group chats to take place, in a message first seen by The Verge.

Facebook in December 2017 introduced a version of its Messenger application created to let children between six and 12 years old connect with others under parental supervision.

The problem, however, is that those rules are thrown out the window when the relatively new group chat is involved. Facebook also added that "We want you to know that we've turned off this group chat and are making sure that group chats like this won't be allowed in the future".

"We recently notified some parents of Messenger Kids account users about a technical error that we detected affecting a small number of group chats", a Facebook's spokesman said in a statement. Unlike Facebook's other services, the app is open to children under the age of 13.

Messenger Kids, launched in 2017, was pegged as a safe space for children who were too young to use the "grown-up" version of the social network.

Messenger Kids only lets children select from approved users for one-to-one chats. The unique permissions (authorised users only) don't work quite as well in group chats; as long as the users who are invited to a group are authorised to chat with the person who invited them, they can join the chat. We'd also appreciate your feedback.

The messenger app is available in the US, Canada, Mexico, Thailand, and Peru. However, the trouble does not seem to be stopping for the company anytime soon because a new issue has come to light from Facebook.

Messenger Kids is designed in a way that gives parents full control over who their children can interact with on the app. Children can start conversations with only other users who have been already approved by their parents. While everyone in the group should have been approved by someone, the flaw is likely to concern many parents as the app's security was not as tight as Facebook had claimed. The penalty, from the US Federal Trade Commission, is expected to be announced this week, and may include additional privacy oversight for the firm.

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