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Facebook admits Messenger Kids app flaw

2019-07-24 18:17 by
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A "technical error" in the Messenger Kids app allowed a child to enter a group chat with friends-of-friends who hadn't been approved by their parents. The entire purpose of the app, which was launched in 2017 as a safe alternative to Facebook Messenger, was for parents to control who their children talk to.

The issue appears to have arisen as a result of how Messenger Kids' permissions are applied in group chat scenarios — where the multi-user chats apparently override the system of required parental approval for contacts with whom kids are chatting one on one. Facebook confirmed the bug. Since news of the flaw, the company has shut-down a number of group conversations and alerted parents to the possible safety breach.

"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 spokesperson told CNBC. "We turned off the affected chats and provided parents with additional resources on Messenger Kids and online safety."

Ever since Facebook launched the service back in 2017, many child health care advocates have loudly voiced their disapproval for it. Nearly 100 of them signed a letter asking Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg to delete the app over concerns that increased screen time has been shown to cause stress, negative body images, and sleep deprivation, according to multiple studies the letter cites. Facebook later addressed some of these concerns by adding a "Sleep Mode" so parents could control how much time their children spent on the app, but others remained.

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