Sens. Grill Facebook's Zuckerberg on New Kids App

Facebook's release of the Messenger Kids social media app for younger children earlier this week has drawn some attention on Capitol Hill.

Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) sent a letter to company CEO Mark Zuckerberg Thursday (Dec. 7) saying they "remain concerned about where sensitive information collected through this app could end up and for what purpose it could be used,” write the Senators to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in their letter. “Facebook must take heightened care in ensuring the company creates a safe and controlled environment for its young users, complete with parental consent.”

Facebook said it had talked to parents, the PTA and parenting experts before giving kids something to make it easier to connect, but with parental control.

The tablet and smartphone app allows parents to set up one-one-one or group video chats with contacts they approve of. It will also include a library of" kid-appropriate and specially chosen GIFs, frames, stickers, masks and drawing tools."

But the senators, both members of the Commerce Committee, which oversees communications issues, want to make sure that the app complies with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which Markey helped draft. They still have a lot of questions they want Zuckerberg to answer. Those include:

"Will Facebook commit to keeping all of its applications and services for children 12 and under advertisement free?

"What information is shared with Facebook’s family of companies or its vendors and service providers?

"What cybersecurity is built into Messenger Kids?

"Will any of the information collected from Messenger Kids be used once a child turns 13 and signs up for her own Facebook account?

"In what ways did Facebook work with child development experts to design the app?"

They want their answers by Jan. 4.

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John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.