Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) just can’t seem to get itself out of the clutches of the US lawmakers. Two US Democratic Senators sent Mark Zuckerberg a set of 9 questions regarding an error in the Facebook Messenger Kids app which lets the kids talk to people who had not been given permission to do so by their parents. To put things into context, Messenger Kids is an app which is made for children in between the ages of 6 and 12 years old. It allows them to chat with their family members and friends, everything of which is monitored by their parents. But the identified bug allowed these kids to get into online groups where there were people who had not been approved by the parents.
Facebook Messenger Kids Apps: The Origin of the Error
The error on Facebook Messenger Kids app was first reported by the Verge. But when Facebook was asked about the origins of the error, their spokespersons did not provide much clarity. Instead, they listed it as a ‘technical error’, claiming that they have made changes to nullify the error. The Facebook spokesperson had this to say:-
The US lawmakers, however, weren’t prepared to let it go that easily. The two Senators who sent Mark Zuckerberg the letter were Sens. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. In the letter, they expressed their concern over how Facebook Kids app was not doing enough to ensure the privacy protection of the kids online. They went on to raise questions about the error; specific to how the error originated in the first place and for how long it was active before getting discovered. The Senators even labelled the revelation as ‘disturbing‘.
FTC $5 Billion Fine and Its Impact
Another question that was raised by the Senators was regarding the company’s correspondence with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). They are, of course, referring to the $5 billion fine imposed by FTC on Facebook over privacy violations, the highlight of them being the debacle with Cambridge Analytica. The Senators wanted to know how the large fine settlement was affecting the issues surrounding Messenger Kids.
This isn’t even the first time that Messenger Kids app has been under the scrutiny of the law. Child advocates have been pointing out the privacy flaws in the app for a long time. Some even want the app to be shut down as it doesn’t follow the federal law aiming to protect a child’s online privacy. Privacy groups have pointed out how this law, COPPA, has been violated by the app. And after the recent fiasco, these people will have something to say as well.
Another of Facebook’s spokesperson said that the company wasn’t ready with the answers to the questions in the letter as they had just received it.