MySpace Settles With FTC Over Privacy Charges

Follows settlements by Google, Facebook

MySpace joined Google and Facebook in settling Federal Trade Commission charges that it violated millions of users' privacy, contrary to what the social network said in its privacy policy.

As part of the settlement, MySpace must establish a comprehensive privacy program designed to protect consumers' information and will be subjected to third-party audits of its privacy program for the next 20 years.

The FTC claimed that MySpace shared personally identifiable information with advertisers. Advertisers could use MySpace's Friend ID to locate a user's MySpace profile that included in most instances, the user's full name, as well as age, gender and profile picture. MySpace also falsely certified that it complied with the U.S.-E.U. Safe Harbor Framework, according to the FTC.

The complaint covers the years 2009 and 2010, when the majority of ads on MySpace were served through Fox Audience Network. News Corp. sold MySpace last year to Specific Media for $35 million.

The MySpace settlement is the latest in a long line of actions the FTC has taken against Internet companies for privacy policies that FTC found to have violated the federal law prohibiting fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices. Last year, both Google and Facebook settled privacy-related charges with the FTC.

The FTC has also been active in the debate over privacy policy and regulation, recently spelling out its privacy policy guidelines in a final report released in March. Chairman Jon Leibowitz and commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen are scheduled to appear before the Senate Commerce Committee May 9 to discuss the report.