Myspace and the Federal Trade Commission have agreed a settlement on charges that the social network company misused user information and misrepresented its privacy practices. In part, the agreement calls for Myspace to implement a privacy program and to undergo independent privacy assessments for the next two decades – nearly twice as long as the company has been in existence.

Basically, Myspace promised it would not share this personally identifiable information without the user’s explicit permission. But according to the FTC, it did. The agency determined that advertisers, who were supposed to only get anonymized data for targeting, often had access to most of what was on a user’s personal profile. This also gave advertisers and other third parties the ability to link other browsing and similar activities to a specific individual person by name.

The FTC charged that the statements in its privacy policy therefore were deceptive and violated federal law. It was less scathing in its assessment than it was in its similar agreement with Facebook, but just as firm as in that settlement. A period of public comment now runs for 30 days before the agreement becomes final. (You can read the entire agreement below.)

At issue are each user’s unique identifier, called a “Friend ID” in Myspace’s lexicon, which follows the user everywhere and provides easy access to personal profile information including his or her age, gender, display name and full name, along with the optional information many users include like friends lists, profile photo, hobbies and interests.

Myspace is currently owned by online advertising company Specific Media and Justin Timberlake, who purchased it from News Corp. for $35 million. News Corp. retains a minority stake, which can’t be much consolation for the conglomerate that paid $580 million for Myspace in 2005.

Related links:

Federal Trade Commission – press statement

Myspace – official site

Specific Media – official site

Reuters – Myspace settles U.S. FTC charges over privacy

Los Angeles Times – Myspace to settle FTC charges that it misled millions of users

Politico – Myspace agrees to FTC privacy settlement


FTC Myspace Order