Facebook Cleared Up a Privacy Flaw in Its Messenger for Kids App

Participants in group chats were able to interact with people approved by the chat starter’s parents, but not their own

Messenger Kids debuted in December 2017 Facebook
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When Facebook debuted its Messenger for Kids application in December 2017, its main selling point to quell privacy concerns was the fact that parents had full control over their kids’ usage of the app, including who they could interact with. However, that control was somewhat compromised by a recent flaw that was discovered in the app.

When using the group chat feature, kids were able to interact with people that were not approved by their parents. Those unapproved users were not completely random, as they were invited by whoever started the group chat, meaning they were authorized by the parent of that user. But chat participants’ parents never had the chance to vet those people.

Russell Brandom of The Verge shared the alert that Facebook has been sending to affected parents.

It reads, “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.”

Facebook confirmed that the alert was authentic and had been send to “thousands” of people recently, and a spokesperson added, “We recently notified some parents of Messenger Kids account users about a technical error that we detected affecting a small number of group chats. We turned off the affected chats and provided parents with additional resources on Messenger Kids and online safety.”

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.