Myspace Promises Government to Clarify Privacy Policy

Myspace has settled Federal Trade Commission charges that it misled users about the sharing of the personal information, including with advertisers.

The FTC had charged that the social network had provided advertisers with the Friend ID (a unique profile identifier) of users viewing particular pages on the site, despite promising in its privacy policy that it would not share personally identifiable info without giving users notice and choice.

The FTC charged that the privacy policy was deceptive and in violation of federal law.

The FTC also said Myspace claimed that it complied with the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework for transferring data lawfully from EU countries to the U.S. but that the claim was false. The FTC is empowered to go after false and deceptive claims.

While Myspace did not acknowledge wrongdoing, it agreed not to misrepresent how it protects users' privacy, including the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework. It also agreed to establish "a comprehensive privacy program designed to protect consumers' information, and to obtain biennial assessments of its privacy program by independent, third-party auditors for 20 years."

Myspace is owned by Specific Media and Justin Timberlake, which bought the struggling site it from News Corp. at pennies on the dollar last June.

Facebook last fall settled FTC charges that it, too, had not lived up to privacy assurances to its users. It also agreed to third party auditors for the next 20 years and to adopting a comprehensive privacy policy program.

Specific Media made the point that the information sharing
practices in question predated its purchase of the site.  

"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," the company said
in a statement e-mailed to B&C/Multichannel News following the
announced settlement. "Myspace has further agreed to implement a comprehensive
privacy program that will minimize future risks to the privacy and security of
information. As part of this program, Myspace will conduct biennial independent
audits of its privacy practices to ensure that we consistently fulfill this
commitment to our community. Similar agreements have been entered into by other
industry leaders over the past several months.

"Consumer privacy has always been a chief concern at
Specific Media. That's why we've been active members of the Network Advertising
Initiative (NAI), the International Advertising Sales Houses (IASH), the
Internet Advertising Bureau's (IAB) and the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA).
Additionally, we demonstrated our commitment to privacy by becoming one of the
earliest adopters of the DAA's Ad Choices Program, which provides consumers
with unprecedented information and control over the delivery of targeted
advertisements to their Web browsers. 

"Since acquiring Myspace in June 2011, we've set out to
create a social entertainment experience around connecting, sharing and
discovering content. Of equal importance, we have extended this commitment to
privacy protection and industry best practice to Myspace.

"Of course, part of creating the ultimate social
entertainment destination is allowing users to feel comfortable and secure
about the information they share. Myspace has a long history of developing
cutting-edge tools for controlling how information is used and shared. Yet,
there is always room for improvement. That's why one of our first actions after
acquiring Myspace was to thoroughly examine the company's business practices
and, where applicable, make improvements. A major focus of this review was to
ensure that Myspace delivered advertisements to consumers in a manner that
safeguarded their privacy. Applying our expertise in online advertising, we
successfully improved upon Myspace's historical practices, bringing the social
media platform to the forefront of industry best practice for ad delivery."

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.