Facebook acknowledged a flaw in the application of messenger kids , weeks after two U.S. senators raised confidentiality concerns and said he had spoken to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission on the issue.
Facebook’s vice president for U.S. public policy, Kevin Martin, wrote in a letter to two Democrats: « We are in constant contact with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission on many issues and products, including Messenger Kids.
The executive described the need as a technical error in the August 27 letter to Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
Facebook said in the letter: Based on our review, we found that the technical error has existed since last October, and it was discovered in June, and the repair we implemented one day after the discovery prevents the problem from recurring.
Martin said the company believes the application is in compliance with the law, and that Facebook is committed to continuing to improve it, but senators said they were disappointed with Facebook‘s approach.
Senator Ed Marchy in response to a Facebook message said « We are particularly disappointed that Facebook has not committed to a full review of Messenger Kids to identify other errors or privacy issues, »
Senators wrote to Facebook on August 6 to ask if there was a worrying pattern of poor privacy protection for children using Messenger Kids and demanding transparency.
In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, they said senators were shocked to learn that the application allowed thousands of children to participate in group conversations, not all of which had parental consent.
Facebook agreed in July to pay a record $5 billion fine to settle the FTC’s investigation of its privacy practices, and the settlement increases Facebook’s guarantees for user data.
The company launched the Messenger Kids application nearly two years ago for children under 13 – the minimum age for a Facebook account and the age at which the Children’s Privacy Act (COPPA) expires.
The application contains other elements of confidentiality, such as requiring parents to consent to each friend, but the approval process included a loophole.
Children were able to create group messages with multiple users, and although these users had to be approved to communicate with the group creator, they may not be approved to match everyone in the group.