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Friday, March 19, 2010

MySpace selling user data? MySpace responds

Reports have been popping up around the place lately, claiming that MySpace is, or about to, sell data on their users to third parties.

This is a sensitive issue for me after discovering back in 2008 that Australia Post was conducting a 'lifestyles' survey and using that to create mailing lists for sale to pretty much anyone who wanted them. I still maintain that Australia Post did not properly alert survey respondents about what was happening with their responses. Getting offers from 'partners' is reasonably common, but wholesale selling of individual data to pernicious junk mailers is something else entirely. I was staggered by the array of organisations using that data, including the ubiquitous Readers Digest - get on their list and you never seem to get off again!

So when I first read these stories of MySpace selling data to third party users, I became rather concerned. When you consider the MySpace links to Google and the latter's quite blatant attempt to rip off rights of authors via its digital library, I believe my concerns were justified. I contacted MySpace direct and here is their response.

Thanks for contacting MySpace.

Numerous blog posts have surfaced over the last few days that have created confusion surrounding MySpace’s user data. We want to set the record straight - MySpace is not selling user data.

Through the MySpace Developer Platform, third party developers can access - free of charge - MySpace users’ publicly available real-time data (such as status updates, or updates about when a user adds music, photos, or videos to their profile) using our Real Time Stream feed. This is the same MySpace data that is already publicly available through Google’s real-time search feature.

The MySpace Support team

So it would appear that MySpace are not selling or making available data to third party users but merely aiding those third party users to access what is already publicly available. So the moral of the story is don't put up anything about yourself in your MySpace pages that you would not want another party to make use of.

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