Facebook announced yesterday that their 2017 Messenger Kids app isn’t as safe as they thought. Turns out, a technical error had been allowing kids to join group chats with unauthorized strangers, instead of sticking to a pre-approved list of friends and family.
Messenger Kids was made specifically for users under the age of 13. It only lets kids chat with a list of users verified by their parents, so they’re kept safe from people who may not have their best interest at heart.
But a loophole has been discovered: these protections only work one-on-one. Since the app launched in 2017, thousands of kids have been added to chats with users who haven’t been parent-approved. Whoever starts the group chat can invite any Facebook user to join, even if they’re blocked from chatting individually with a child.
Facebook has confirmed that the loophole is real and that they’ve recently sent “thousands” of alert messages to users notifying them of the issue. A Facebook representative told The Verge: “We recently notified some parents of Messenger Kids
This error, of course, violates the core promise of Messenger Kids. It exposes children to potentially dangerous strangers, allowing them to share personal information that could put them at risk. And with Facebook still under fire for privacy concerns, this doesn’t help their case.
Children’s use of technology at school and home will only continue to grow. This makes it more important than ever for internet giants like Facebook to have safeguards in place.