clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

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

Democratic lawmakers want the company to offer more information about the data it’s collecting, and why.

Dem. Senators Hold Press Conf. On Higher Minimum Wage For Small Businesses
Sen. Ed Markey (L), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (R)
Chip Somodevilla / Getty

Facebook says it’s new app for youngsters — called Messenger Kids — lets users under age 12 “connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want.”

Lawmakers in the U.S. Congress, however, still have their doubts.

To Democratic Sens. Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal, Facebook’s new children-focused chat app “has the potential to provide a safe space for children entering the digital world, but it does raise a number of privacy and security concerns.” That’s why they’re now demanding that Facebook explain clearly what data it’s collecting about its new, young users, and what it’s planning to do with it.

Specifically, Markey and Blumenthal asked Facebook on Wednesday to clarify if it is sharing kids’ personal information with “brand advertisers or any other third party.” They also questioned whether Facebook is collecting and storing information about device location. And the duo of Democratic members of Congress urged Facebook to address whether its new Messenger Kids app will be walled off from the internet, so that youngsters can’t click on links that might be harmful or malicious.

“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 purpose it could be used,” they wrote.

Asked about the letter, a spokesman for Facebook only confirmed that the company had received the lawmakers’ note.

Otherwise, the social giant has provided only limited, basic details about the privacy protections baked into Messenger Kids. For example, Facebook has stressed it won’t serve ads on the chat app. And in response to Wired, the company said its privacy policy — which allows it to collect and share information, including the content of communications, with other companies — is only for “infrastructure” purposes.

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. After all, the company has been penalized in the past for its data misdeeds. And it’s previously made commitments about user privacy then changed its mind.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.