Feds accuse Myspace of violating privacy

Myspace settled charges with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Tuesday that it mishandled users' private information.

The case follows settlements the FTC reached last year with Facebook, Google and Twitter over privacy violations. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz has been aggressive in going after Web companies that fail to follow their own privacy policies.

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According to Tuesday's settlement, Myspace shared unique user identifiers, known as "Friend IDs," with advertisers. 

Myspace provided the advertisers with the Friend IDs of users who had visited particular pages on the social networking site. The advertisers could then use the Friend ID to find a user's publicly available profile.

So according to the FTC, Myspace enabled advertisers to match a user's browsing history with personal information, such as their name, age and gender.

In its privacy policy, Myspace promised users that it would not share their personal information with third parties without first receiving their permission.

The FTC alleged that Myspace violated federal law by deceiving consumers about how it handled their personal information.

The settlement bars Myspace from misrepresenting its privacy practices going forward and requires the company to develop a comprehensive privacy program. Myspace will also be required to submit to outside privacy audits for 20 years.

Future violations of the settlement could result in hefty penalties.

The settlement is similar to the ones that the FTC reached with the other social media companies last year.

Myspace, which is now owned by Specific Media LLC and pop star Justin Timberlake, was once a dominant social networking site, but has since fallen far behind competitors like Facebook.

The new owners are trying to avoid direct competition with Facebook by transitioning Myspace into a site for users to share and listen to music. 

In a statement, Specific Media said it overhauled Myspace's privacy practices when it took over the company last year.

"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," the company said in a statement.

Specific Media said the commitments it made to the FTC are part of its effort "to be an industry leader in matters of consumer privacy."

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