The Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday that the social-networking service Myspace has agreed to settle charges that it misled its users about the information it shares with advertisers.
The settlement with Myspace is similar to one its much bigger rival Facebook agreed to last fall with the FTC. The deal prohibits Myspace from misrepresenting its privacy policies in the future, requires the website to implement a comprehensive privacy program, and mandates regular independent audits of the service’s privacy practices for the next 20 years.
The FTC alleged that Myspace violated its pledge not to share personally identifiable information with its advertisers. Specifically, the commission said that Myspace shared its users “Friend IDs,” a unique identifier it assigns to each user profile. Those profiles, much like the ones on Facebook, contain a user's name, age, gender, profile picture, and other personal information.
“Advertisers could use the Friend ID to locate a user's Myspace profile to obtain personal information publicly available on the profile and, in most instances, the user's full name,” the FTC said. “Advertisers also could combine the user's real name and other personal information with additional information to link broader Web-browsing activity to a specific individual.”
Myspace was launched in 2004 and helped bring about the social-networking revolution, prompting Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. to scoop it up in 2005 for $580 million. Since then, Myspace has been eclipsed by Facebook. According to the digital analytics firm comScore, Myspace had about 33 million unique users per month earlier this year, less than half the traffic it had during its peak in 2008 and far less than the more than 900 million active users on Facebook.
News Corp. sold Myspace last year to Specific Media for $35 million. Myspace now bills itself as “a leading social entertainment destination powered by the passions of fans. Myspace drives social interaction by providing a highly personalized experience around entertainment and connecting people to the music, TV, movies, and games that they love.”
Specific Media issued a statement on Tuesday after the settlement was announced. “Since acquiring Myspace in June 2011, we’ve set out to create a social entertainment experience around connecting, sharing and discovering content…. Of course, part of creating the ultimate social entertainment destination is allowing users to feel comfortable and secure about the information they share,” the company said. “In order to put any questions regarding Myspace’s pre-acquisition advertising practices behind us, Myspace has reached an agreement with the FTC that makes a formal commitment to our community to accurately disclose how their information is used and shared.”