Facebook’s Messenger Kids app is intended to offer children a safe, parent-controlled way to communicate with friends and family.
However, a recent flaw in the app has had the completely opposite effect and is inadvertently putting kids into chats with complete strangers.
According to The Verge, Facebook has been quietly closing down affected group chats and notifying participants of the issue. However, the company hadn’t publicly disclosed the issue.
In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed the bug has been “affecting a small number of group chats” and that it’s been privately notifying users.
That said, the spokesperson didn’t provide a specific number of those who have been affected. Facebook also hasn’t yet revealed how long the flaw has been active in the app, which launched in December 2017 in the U.S. and later came to Canada in June 2018. Therefore, it’s unclear if this is a recent issue or something that has been going on for a longer period.
As noted by The Verge, the bug stems from the way Messenger Kids’ unique permissions are applied to group chats. Standard two-person chats must be approved the child’s parents. However, these specific permissions weren’t extended to group chat, meaning that a participant can invite someone they’ve been authorized to chat with, regardless if they’ve been approved by the other chat members.
Messenger Kids has previously been criticized by privacy groups who assert that the app is in violation of the U.S.’ Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which safeguards kids under the age of 13. Meanwhile, Facebook as a whole is facing ongoing scrutiny for breach of privacy in the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal and a probe by the Federal Trade Commission.
Source: The Verge