Sens. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) wrote a letter Wednesday to Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, charging that the social media giant has a “worrying pattern” of inadequate protections for children using the Facebook Messenger Kids app.
The Democrat senators, both part of the Senate Commerce Committee, sent their letter to Facebook in the wake of a report which found a design flaw in the Facebook Messenger Kids app which allowed children to chat with strangers not approved by their kids.
The senators wrote that they were “disturbed” to learn that the Facebook app allowed thousands of children to join group chats to chat with adult strangers.
“Children’s privacy and safety online should be Messenger Kids’ top priority,” wrote to Zuckerberg. “Your company has a responsibility to meet its promise to parents that children are not exposed to unapproved contacts, a promise that it appears that Facebook has not fulfilled.”
Facebook launched Facebook Messenger Kids in December 2007, which allows children under the age of 13 to video chat, send photos, videos, and texts with other children their age.
“Facebook has a responsibility to meet its promise to parents that children are not exposed to unapproved contacts, a promise that it appears that Facebook has not fulfilled,” the Democrat senators contended.
“Children’s privacy and safety online should be Messenger Kids’ top priority,” they added.
Sens. Markey and Blumenthal asked when the company first became aware of the privacy flaw and whether the social media giant started a review of the app to identify other flaws that may exist on the application.
The Democrat senators previously sent a letter to Facebook regarding its privacy concerns and collection of children’s private information. Last year, roughly 20 privacy experts and advocacy groups filed a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which included evidence that Messenger Kids app collected the information of children without disclosure of Facebook’s data practices and without gaining parental consent.
Sens. Markey and Blumenthal have charged that the Facebook Messenger Kids app does not meet the requirements stipulated under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
The senators said that “these issues point to a worrying pattern of lax privacy protections for kids on the Messenger Kids platform.”
Read Sens. Blumenthal and Markey’s letter to Zuckerberg here.