Apps

Facebook Messenger For Kids Causes Huge Safety And Privacy Blunder, Allows Children To Talk To Strangers

Written By Tech Desk | Mumbai | Published:

Hack:

  • A design flaw in the app allowed users to bypass the safeguarding mechanism, letting children indulge in group chats with strangers without approval from their parents
  • Facebook's silent crackdown on these group chats for the past week has been alarming enough for parents

A design flaw in Facebook's Messenger Kids app has landed the social media giant in some new trouble. The idea behind Messenger for Kids is to prevent children from talking to strangers without parental consent. According to reports, a design flaw in the app allowed users to bypass the safeguarding mechanism, letting children indulge in group chats with strangers without approval from their parents.

Facebook's silent crackdown on these group chats for the past week has been alarming enough for parents. Reports suggest Facebook has alerted users about the issue. However, Facebook did not acknowledge the issue in a public statement. The Verge obtained the alert, which reads as follows:

"Hi [PARENT], 
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."

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Facebook has reportedly confirmed the message was authentic and Facebook notified about the issue to thousands of users in recent days.

“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,” Facebook told The Verge.

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What caused the issue?

The cause behind the issue was the way unique permissions apply in group chats of Facebook Messenger for Kids.

In an ideal scenario, a kid would require approval from his/her parents to chat with someone. But when it came to group chats, these permissions became so much complex. For example, those launching a group chat could talk to users with parental approval, even if they don't have the approval to chat with other users in the group. Therefore, these complexities let thousands of users have conversations with strangers in group chats without parental consent.

However, it is unclear for how long the bug was present in the app. Facebook Messenger for Kids app was launched in December 2017.

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