Facebook's new Messenger app for kids has Congress asking about privacy

Facebook's new Messenger app for kids has Congress asking about privacy

Facebook's new Messenger app for kids has Congress asking about privacy

"While we appreciate Facebook taking steps to protect this vulnerable population by including parental controls, establishing an ad-free environment, and restricting some data collection, we remain concerned about where sensitive information collected through this app could end up and for what objective it could be used", they wrote.

With Facebook Messenger Kids, parents have to download the app on their kids' mobile device, create the kid's profile, and set approved people with whom the kids can chat from the main Messenger app.

Facebook said it developed the app after speaking with thousands of parents, major parental groups and child development experts.

Facebook says the app complies with USA child online privacy laws and contains no adverts. The new standalone app offers video and text chat to children while offering parents the ability to restrict who they can talk to. When Facebook asked parents about launching a kids' app, many told the company that they did not want a full social network, but had more interest in a communications tool, the company said. Amazon has also added kid-focused "skills" to its Echo smart speakers, which require a parent's permission to activate.

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"I'm an avid social media user, but I don't feel my kids need more social interaction", said Quirion, 39, whose three children are between ages 3 and 9.

It's important to understand that kids under 13 still can't sign up for a Facebook account.

For the first time, Facebook is now offering a solution for kids to use its messaging platform, introducing Messenger Kids. Messenger Kids is also created to be compliant with the Children's Online Privacy and Protection Act (COPPA). Messenger Kids is interoperable with the main Messenger app, so adults don't actually have to download the Kids app. They'll still have to build a traditional Facebook account from scratch when they're ready. Markey and Blumenthal in the letter wondered if Facebook would collect the location data of children or if the firm would distribute the data within its own family of companies.

Facebook's focus on younger children raised some alarm bells, however. The app does not contain ads and is free of in-app purchases. Then the device can be handed over to the child so they can start chatting with the family and friends you approve.

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Facebook has been careful to comply with the law, Montgomery said.

"New aspects of the product will emerge", she said, in her role as a senior consultant for the Center for Digital Democracy.

The app launches on Apple's App Store first.

If anything, the flurry of early doubts and questions - from Congress and elsewhere - reflects a broader, lingering unease with the way in which Facebook collects, shares and monetizes all of its users' sensitive personal information. It now seems the company may have similar plans for Instagram. But that's slightly changing now, as the company has chose to open the doors of its Messenger services to the kids. "Tech is going to be something kids adopt". "The question becomes do we simply ban them and fight a losing fight?"

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