Facebook’s Messenger Kids app accidentally let users circumvent parental restrictions

July 23, 2019

Facebook’s Messenger Kids app has found itself at the centre of another mini-privacy controversy, this time revolving around

The conceit of the app is simple; parents control who their kids can talk to. This allows them to cede a little freedom, while not being completely restrictive or complete laisse faire. However, the firm has recently shared information about a bug present in the app which undermined this commitment.

In a statement circulated to parents which was provided to The Verge, the firm said:

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 technical issue here is that an authorised user could create a group chat with any other authorised user on Messenger for kids. Fine and dandy, that’s how it should work. However, once in the group chat, other unauthorised users would be free to join and converse with the members in the group chat. This ended up effectively circumventing the main purpose of the app. Facebook has since shut that down, removed users from said group chats and has notified parents of the issues.

The firm said, “We turned off the affected chats and provided parents with additional resources on Messenger Kids and online safety.”

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