Myspace to settle FTC charges that it misled millions of users [Updated]
The proposed settlement with the FTC would bar Myspace from future misrepresentations and require the social network to implement a comprehensive privacy program that calls for independent assessments to be conducted over the next 20 years.
Myspace encouraged its 24.7-million users to create online profiles containing substantial personal information — such as a person's age, gender, photograph and name (if they failed to provide one, their real name would be associated with this information).
Myspace assigned a unique identifier, which it called a "Friend ID," to each profile.
Despite promising not to share users' personally identifiable information, Myspace provided advertisers with the Friend IDs of users who viewed particular pages on its site, the FTC charged. Advertisers could use this information to obtain the personal information contained in the user's profile — even his or her full name, according to the FTC.
The proposed settlement with federal regulators would prevent Myspace from misrepresenting the extent to which it safeguards a user's personal information. It also requires Myspace to create a comprehensive program to protect consumers' information. The agreement is subject to public comment until June 8, when the commission will decide whether to finalize it.
Myspace issued a statement Tuesday morning, saying "consumer privacy has always been a chief concern" of the site's owner, Specific Media, which acquired the struggling social network last June from News Corp. for $35 million.
Without acknowledging wrongdoing, Specific Media said Myspace always has had "cutting-edge tools" for controlling how information is used and shared — adding "there is always room for improvement." Specific Media said it examined the social network's business practices following the acquisition and began to make improvements.
"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," Specific Media said in a statement.
The FTC settlement does not provide information about when the privacy breaches occurred at Myspace. A spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Updated 11:10 am: According to the FTC, the alleged in its complaint took place from January 2009 through June 2010, when News Corp. owned the social network, and again from October 2010 through October 2011, a peiod of time when ownership changed. Specific Media acquired the site in June 2011.
Specific Media executives Chris Vanderhook, left, and his brother Tim Vanderhook photographed at Myspace headquarters in Beverly Hills. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times
— Dawn C. Chmielewski