FTC charges MySpace with violating user privacy

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has charged MySpace with violating user privacy

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has charged social networking site MySpace with violating federal law by sharing users' personal information and web browsing habits with third parties.

MySpace has agreed that from now on, it will stick strictly to its privacy policy that promises not to share users' information without permission and to introduce in-depth privacy controls.

But advertising companies that were allowed to track MySpace users' browsing will not be charged, according to the New York Times, highlighting a lack of laws around online privacy.

The FTC said that from January 2009 to June 2010 and from October 2010 to October 2011, MySpace transmitted information, including users' ages and genders, to external advertising networks.

Using that information, the FTC said third parties could obtain users’ names and other personal information and view a history of web sites users had visited.

The violations of the privacy policy took place mainly while MySpace was owned by News Corporation, but current owner, Specific Media, has agreed to comply with an FTC order that requires it to obey its stated privacy policies, establish comprehensive privacy controls and procedures, and submit to audits of its actions every other year for 20 years.

The company cannot be penalised by the FTC for past violations, but could face a $16,000 civil fine for any future violation.

The agreement with MySpace is similar to one the FTC reached with Facebook in November over its sharing of users’ information with advertisers and making public information that it had said would be kept private.

The FTC settled a similar privacy case with Google over its Google Buzz network last year, but is now investigating whether Google violated that agreement when it reportedly circumvented privacy controls on Apple’s Safari browser.

Image: Jupiterimages

Read more on Privacy and data protection