Senators Grill Facebook's Zuckerberg on New Messenger Kids App

Say they have concerns about where sensitive info could wind up

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

Related: Facebook's 'Messenger Kids' Sending Right Signals, Says CDD

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.”

“Facebook must take heightened care in ensuring the company creates a safe and controlled environment for its young users, complete with parental consent,” Markey and Blumenthal wrote.

Facebook said it had talked to parents, the PTA and parenting experts before giving kids an app that makes it easier to connect, but with parental controls.

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, including the following:

"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 a Facebook account?

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

Markey and Blumenthal want their answers by Jan. 4.