The Wall Street Journal on Friday reported that sister News Corp. property MySpace and some popular applications on the social-networking site have been giving advertising companies data that could identify members of the social networking service
MySpace and some third-party applications popular at the online community transmitted unique ID numbers that could be used to find profile pages that could contain names, pictures, gender, and more about a person, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.
“Knowledge of a public user ID does not give anyone access to private user data,” a MySpace spokesman said in response to an AFP inquiry. “We share non-personally identifiable information with advertising companies as part of our ad serving process.”
The information was primarily sent by MySpace when users clicked on ads. The website had pledged to discontinue the practice of sending personal data when users click on ads after the Journal reported it in May.
The Journal’s investigation demonstrates how fundamental Web technologies can jeopardize user privacy. When a user clicks on an online ad, several pieces of data are transmitted, including the web address of the page where the user saw the ad.
A MySpace spokesman said the data identify the user profile being viewed but not necessarily the person who clicked on the ad. MySpace is owned by News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal.
MySpace maintained that its terms of service prohibit third-party developers from sharing any user data, including public ID numbers.
“It has recently come to our attention that several third party app developers may have violated these terms and we are taking appropriate action against those developers,” the spokesman said.
MySpace.com, which had 58 million visitors in the U.S. in September, has been struggling to turn its business around in the face of main competition from Facebook Inc., which had 148 million U.S. visitors last month, according to comScore Inc.
Earlier this week, we reported that the top 10 most-popular applications on Facebook were passing that site’s user ID numbers to advertisers.
Facebook on Thursday said it planned to start encrypting user identification data that had been inadvertently leaking out through games and other outside applications synched to profile pages.
Facebook eclipsed MySpace to become the world’s most popular social network with around 500 million users, but it has been dogged by complaints about privacy protection.
MySpace re-invented itself as an online community for music makers and lovers. News Corp. planned to relaunch the service by the end of this year, targeting a younger audience and putting a premium on “self-expression.” [via Wall Street Journal]