MySpace Simplifies Privacy Settings

Social networking pioneer MySpace is back in the news today after announcing the first changes to its Privacy Policy settings in two years.

The privacy changes come as MySpace is also in the national news once again in the case of a missing California teenager who authorities worry may have disappeared to meet a man she met through the site.

In a brief, personalized email sent to each of its estimated 122 million members, the company said it had “made some changes to our privacy settings to make them simpler than ever.”

MySpace says the new settings will allow users to choose one privacy setting for their entire profile instead of having individual privacy settings for each of their profile, photos, friends, stream and comments.

MySpace was the most popular social networking site in the United States as recently as 2006, but saw its growth quickly eclipsed as competitors like Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare entered the market. Each of those companies has been forced to address their own privacy settings in recent years as users continue to raise concerns about the data collection and release tactics of the social networking sites they frequent.

As part of MySpace’s new privacy settings, user profiles are now also automatically set to be viewed by ‘anyone and everyone’ for users 18 and over but, according to the company, ‘if any of your previous settings were set to only my friends, your entire profile is not set to only my friends.’ The default setting for new users under 18 makes their Profile Content available only to people who are on their friends list.

Personalized items such as photo albums, videos, blogs, events and playlists will operate under an “individual privacy setting” to allow users to choose privacy settings per item when the content is uploaded, and to modify the settings at any time.

The new settings also clarify that a user’s basic profile information consists of the user’s profile picture, numerical friend ID, optional vanity URL, location, gender and age, display name and real name, if desired.

MySpace reassured users the company does, “understand the importance of privacy and allowing you to control your information…We just want you to be ‘in the know’ about what the privacy settings are, how to use them and how they affect the types of information you share.”