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Facebook Fails to Allay Privacy Fears on Messenger Kids

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

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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. The Boston-based renewable energy developer Longroad Energy announced in May that Facebook is building a… VOA

Facebook is not doing enough to safeguard children on its Messenger Kids app and their privacy is at risk, US Democratic Senators have stressed.

Responding to Facebook’s reply to their earlier letter, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said that Facebook has to do a lot better to protect kids on its Messenger Kids platform, The Verge reported on Wednesday.

“Facebook’s response gives little reassurance to parents that Messenger Kids is a safe place for children today,” the Senators said.

“We are particularly disappointed that Facebook did not commit to undertaking a comprehensive review of Messenger Kids to identify additional bugs or privacy issues,” they added.

Facebook in July admitted a design flaw in its Messenger Kids Service that exposed thousands of children on group chats with unauthorised users.

The concerned Senators shot a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on August 6, asking him to explain what exactly is happening.

“Children’s privacy and safety online should be Messenger Kids’ top priority. 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,” they wrote.

In a reply on Wednesday, Facebook Public Policy Vice President Kevin Martin said: “We believe… that Messenger Kids complies with COPPA (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) and we are committed to continually improving it to ensure that we not only comply with COPPA but also meet and exceed the high standards of parents and families.”

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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

However, the Facebook reply failed to satisfy the Senators.

“If Facebook wants children and parents’ trust, it has to do a lot better than this. That means dropping Facebook’s current whack-a-mole method and taking a proactive approach that makes privacy and security the platform’s number one priority –particularly for kids,” the Senators noted.

The social networking platform introduced Messenger Kids in 2017 and is aimed at kids under 13 years of age.

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.

Also Read: Tech Giant Apple Tweaks Siri to Protect Users’ Privacy

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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Facebook Offers Help To India On Fake News Traceability On WhatsApp

With India pressing for traceability of WhatsApp messages to check the spread of fake news, Nick Clegg, Facebook Vice President, Global Affairs and Communications, has offered alternative ways to help the country

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Fake, News, WhatsApp, Facebook, India
Over 300 million of the 550 million smartphone and broadband users in the country are low on literacy and digital literacy. Pixabay

With India pressing for traceability of WhatsApp messages to check the spread of fake news, Nick Clegg, Facebook Vice President, Global Affairs and Communications, has offered alternative ways to help the country, without any reference towards tracing the origin of the WhatsApp messages.

WhatsApp had categorically said in the past that the government’s demand to trace the origin of messages on its platform is not possible as it “undermines the privacy of the people”.

Clegg who was the UK’s former Deputy Prime Minister before joining Facebook, visited India last week and met several senior government officials, including IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and offered to assist law enforcement agencies in all possible ways like Artificial Intelligence-driven data analytics and access to “meta-data”.

“Facebook cares deeply about the safety of people in India and Nick’s meetings this week provided opportunities to discuss our commitment to supporting privacy and security in every app we provide and how we can continue to work productively with the government of India towards these shared goals,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.

Fake, News, WhatsApp, Facebook, India
When a message is sent from WhatsApp, the identity of the originator can also be revealed along with the message. Pixabay

Last December, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) proposed changes to Section 79 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000.

The proposed regulations require a company to “enable tracing out of originators of information on its platform as required by legally authorised government agencies”.

The end-to-end encryption feature in WhatsApp makes it difficult for law enforcement authorities to find out the culprit behind a misinformation campaign.

The mobile messaging platform with over 400 million users has already called the proposed changes “overbroad”.

“Attributing messages on WhatsApp would undermine the end-to-end encryption, and its private nature, leading to possibilities of being misused,” a company spokesperson had earlier said.

WhatsApp’s parent company Facebook has over 300 million users in India.

WhatsApp in February stressed that some of the proposed government regulations for social media companies operating in India are threatening the very existence of the app in its current form.

“Of the proposed regulations, the one which concerns us the most is the emphasis on traceability of messages,” Carl Woog, WhatsApp’s Head of Communications, had told IANS.

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The Facebook mobile app on an Android smartphone. Wikimedia Commons

Meanwhile, Facebook has filed a petition to transfer the case looking at enforcing traceability on WhatsApp to the Supreme Court. It is currently sub judice in the Madras High Court.

Tamil Nadu, however, is aiming to get Facebook’s transfer petition dismissed by the Supreme Court.

A professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras recently stressed that the issue can be easily resolved without diluting end-to-end encryption and affecting the privacy of users.

“If WhatsApp says it is not technically possible to show the originator of the message, I can show that it is possible,” said V. Kamakoti.

ALSO READ: Youtube Changes Counts Views To Reduce Inflating Growth Hacks

When a message is sent from WhatsApp, the identity of the originator can also be revealed along with the message.

So the message and the identity of the creator can be seen only by the recipient.

“When that recipient forwards the message, his/her identity can be revealed to the next recipient,” he said, adding that as per the court ruling, those who forward a harmful message can also be held responsible in certain cases. (IANS)