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Flawed Facebook App Let Children Chat with Strangers: Report

Instead, the social media giant said it would focus more on its Messenger Kids service

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FILE - Attendees walk past a Facebook logo during Facebook Inc's F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, United States. VOA
Facebook has admitted a design flaw in its Messenger Kids Service that exposed thousands of children on group chats with unauthorised users.
According to a report in The Verge on Tuesday, the design flaw “allowed users to sidestep that protection through the group chat system, thereby letting children to enter group chats with unapproved strangers”.
The social networking platform introduced Messenger Kids in 2017 and is aimed at kids under 13 years of age. Despite call for withdrawal by experts, Facebook said a “technical error” was behind the problem in group chat. Facebook sent notification to parents, saying it has disabled the group chats in cases where the flaw was detected.
“We recently notified some parents of Messenger Kids account users about a technical error that we detected affecting a small number of group chats,” a Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying.
“We turned off the affected chats and provided parents with additional resources on Messenger Kids and online safety,” the company added.
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FILE – In this April 30, 2019, file photo, Facebook stickers are laid out on a table at F8, Facebook’s developer conference in San Jose, Calif. VOA
Messenger Kids is a video chat and messaging app designed for kids to communicate with family and close friends that parents or caregivers approve.
Parents set up and manage their child’s Messenger Kids account through their own Facebook account.
It is unclear how long the bug was present in the app’s group chat feature. Last year, more than 100 child health experts wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to discontinue the Messenger Kids app.
“At a time when there is mounting concern about how social media use affects the well being of adolescents, it is particularly irresponsible to encourage children as young as pre-schoolers to start using a Facebook product,” the authors wrote.
Facing the flak from lawmakers and experts, Facebook in February this year decided not to build a new app called “LOL” to let children share and post humorous meme content. Instead, the social media giant said it would focus more on its Messenger Kids service. (IANS)

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Microsoft Contractors can Listen to Xbox Players’ Chats: Report

Apple, Google and Amazon recently suspended human review of user audio recordings after reports said the companies used third-party contractors to listen to users’ voice recordings

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FILE - Microsoft Corp. signage is seen outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Washington, July 3, 2014. VOA

Do you have a Microsoft video gaming console Xbox at home? It is possible that third-party contractors working for the tech giant are listening to your living room talks.

After revealing that contractors listened to sensitive and personal conversations of users via Skype and virtual assistant Cortana — which Microsoft has admitted — Motherboard now claims the third-party vendors working for the company also “listened to the audio of Xbox users speaking in their homes in order to improve the console’s voice command features”.

The audio — mostly of children as they played video games — was captured by Xbox consoles “by mistake”, the contractors were quoted as saying.

“Xbox commands came up first as a bit of an outlier and then became about half of what we did before becoming most of what we did,” one former contractor was quoted as saying.

The contractors worked on Xbox audio data from 2014 to 2015 before Cortana was implemented into the console in 2016.

“Listening continued as the Xbox moved from using Kinect for voice commands over to Cortana,” the report said on Wednesday.

Microsoft last month announced it plans to remove Cortana from the Xbox but the gaming console can still be controlled through voice commands with either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant on external smart speakers.

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FILE – A sign for Microsoft is seen on a building in Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 18, 2017. VOA

The company said in a statement: “We’ve long been clear that we collect voice data to improve voice-enabled services and that this data is sometimes reviewed by vendors”.

Last week, Microsoft admitted that third-party contractors were listening to voice conversations on Skype and virtual assistant Cortana.

“We’ve updated our privacy statement and product FAQs to add greater clarity and will continue to examine further opportunities to improve,” the company said.

The updated privacy statement said that human review is used to help build, train and improve the accuracy of its Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems.

Microsoft has joined the likes of Google, Apple, Amazon and Facebook who are in the dock for letting third-party contractors listen to users’ talks.

Also Read: Zomato Reconstructs its ‘Gold’ Service to Benefit Restaurants

Apple, Google and Amazon recently suspended human review of user audio recordings after reports said the companies used third-party contractors to listen to users’ voice recordings.

While Apple suspended the programme that let its virtual assistant ‘Siri’ listen to users’ recordings for “quality control”, Google stopped listening and transcribing Google Assistant recordings in Europe. (IANS)