A BUG in the Facebook Messenger Kids app was found to enable children to strike up conversations with unauthorised users, basically bypassing the whole point of the app.
First, some context: the Messenger Kids app has been designed to only let kids talk to fellow sprogs that their parents approve of them chatting to. The whole premise is to avoid dodgy folks masquerading as kids and chatting to children and potentially grooming them.
But The Verge found a flaw in the app that allowed children to enter chat groups that could contain others not approved by their parents.
The flaw stems from a situation whereby a user can set up a chat and invite children approved by their parents. Those kids can, in turn, invite in other children who might not be authorised to chat with other kids in that group. Basically, it's all down to a string of permissions becoming a bit borked once multiple kids get chatting, a bit like school playground chats.
This flaw effectively allowed thousands of children to chat with unauthorised kids, effectively rendering the whole concept of Messenger Kids moot.
The Verge caught wind of this when it obtained the following alert issues to the parents of kids using Messenger Kids.
"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," the alert read.
Facebook told The Verge that the alert was legit and said it has turned off the affected chats and has been providing parents with "additional resources on Messenger Kids and online safety".
What Facebook didn't say was how long the bug has been doing the round for and when it will fix the problem.
Sadly for Facebook, this is yet another example of it failing to maintain the privacy it has promised in the past. While Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook to be a privacy-focused platform, the recent issues ranging from Facebook technical glitches to the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, don't seem to give us much faith in that goal. µ
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