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Facebook Design Flaw Let Thousands of Kids Join Chats With Unauthorized Users

A design flaw in Facebook’s Messenger Kids app allowed children to enter group chats with unapproved strangers. “For the past week, Facebook has been quietly closing down those group chats and alerting users, but has not made any public statements disclosing the issue,” reports The Verge.

The alert reads as follows: “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.” From the report: The bug arose from the way Messenger Kids’ unique permissions were applied in group chats. In a standard one-on-one chat, children can only initiate conversations with users who have been approved by the child’s parents. But those permissions became more complex when applied to a group chat because of the multiple users involved. Whoever launched the group could invite any user who was authorized to chat with them, even if that user wasn’t authorized to chat with the other children in the group. As a result, thousands of children were left in chats with unauthorized users, a violation of the core promise of Messenger Kids. It’s unclear how long the bug was present in the app, which launched with group features in December 2017.


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