Facebook confirms Messenger Kids bug that allowed children to chat with strangers

Facebook confirms Messenger Kids bug that allowed children to chat with strangers

Facebook has sent out alerts to parents informing them of a recent bug in the Messenger Kids app that allowed their children to chat with unapproved users through group chats. The social networking giant has already taken down those conversations.

The technical error is obviously a clear violation of the app’s promise to provide online protection for children under 13 years of age. Launched in late 2017, Messenger Kids was developed around the idea that only parents can set up their kids’ account and approve who may communicate with them either through a one-on-one or group video chat.

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In an alert message to parents, Facebook stated:

“We found a technical error that allowed [CHILD]’s friend [FRIEND] to create a group chat with [CHILD] and one or more of [FRIEND]’s parent-approved friends. 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. If you have questions about Messenger Kids and online safety, please visit our Help Center and Messenger Kids parental controls. We’d also appreciate your feedback.”

The bug affected thousands of accounts, although its regional scope has not been disclosed. It slipped through the app’s protection system when a group chat was created by a user’s friend who could then add that user to the conversation along with another friend who may not be connected to the initial user. As a result, strangers did not need a parent’s pre-approval to chat with their children via those group chats.

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It’s another blow to Facebook’s already lousy practices when it comes to user privacy. In October 2018, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission accusing Messenger Kids of collecting the personal information of children whose privacy it claims to protect.

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