A letter sent from Facebook to democratic legislators has shed new light on the Messenger Kids offense that took place this summer – and inspired a new backlash from Congress.
Earlier this year, an implementation error in the Messenger Kids app had ensured that children could create group chat with unauthorized users. That violated a core promise of the app, which had promised to give children a way to talk to friends without potentially exposing them to strangers online.
After the news, senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wrote to Facebook looking for more information about the error, especially whether the company has violated the Children & # 39; s Privacy Privacy Act (or COPPA). But Facebook's reply, sent on August 27, makes it clear that the company does not believe that the app ultimately violated that law.
"We believe … that Messenger Kids complies with COPPA," Public VP Kevin Martin wrote to lawmakers. "and families."
The letter also provides more information about when the error was implemented, when it was discovered and when it was finally corrected. According to Walker, the error was introduced in October 2018, just ten months after the app was introduced. Facebook discovered the problem the following year, on June 12, and updated the code to resolve the problem the next day. It would be more than a month later, on July 15, that parents were notified according to Walker's timeline. Those emails were published by The edge the next week.
"Messenger Kids takes children's privacy and safety seriously, and we do everything to investigate technical errors and resolve them quickly," Martin said.
Senators Markey and Blumenthal were not impressed by the explanation.
"The answer from Facebook gives parents little reassurance that Messenger Kids is a safe place for children these days," wrote the senators. “We are particularly disappointed that Facebook has not committed itself to making a comprehensive review of Messenger Kids to identify additional bugs or privacy issues. If Facebook wants the trust of children and parents, it has to do a lot better than this. This means that Facebook's current Whack-A-Mole method will be abolished and a proactive approach adopted that makes privacy and security the top priority of the platform, especially for children. "
The scandal comes at an uncomfortable moment for Facebook, because it seeks sympathetic regulation for the proposed Libra currency. Just a week after the Messenger Kids issues came to light, the Federal Trade Commission announced a $ 5 billion settlement with Facebook on a series of previous privacy issues – an arrangement that many critics found unacceptably light.
It is still unclear whether the FTC will take action following the Messenger Kids issue, although Facebook says the settlement will not currently indemnify the company from such a lawsuit.
"We are in regular contact with the FTC about many issues and products, including Messenger Kids," Martin said in the letter. "In accordance with our practice, we try to be cooperative and respond to their questions."