MySpace still reveals personal information to advertisers, even after an investigation into MySpace practices by the Wall Street Journal. Originally brought to light back in May, the practice means that advertisers are freely handed access to personal information about MySpace users.
"The data being transmitted were MySpace user IDs. These unique numbers can be used to look up a person's MySpace profile page, which sometimes includes their real name, photographs, location, gender and age. The advertising companies being sent the data, which included Google Inc., Quantcast Corp. and Rubicon Project, said they didn't use the information," reads the Wall Street Journal report. Nice redirect, but I'll bet that the advertisers who advertise on those networks do. Collectively, they make up the overwhelming amount of ads served up on the Web.
This happens because the MySpace user's profile name is included in the web address, or URL, of the page that the MySpace user is viewing. When that user clicks on ads (or uses apps or games), an advertiser can tell what page the user came from, thus revealing the profile or user ID of the individual.
This means that not only can MySpace advertisers directly target you with ads based on your web browsing history (a practice that some freely welcome), but now advertisers can actually create an information profile on you with your real name on it. Sound Orwellian and conspiratorial? Hardly. There's an entire industry built around stockpiling personal information that users freely post online. It's called data mining and it's neither legal nor illegal, since Congress is unwilling to define and act on the issue.
There's been a consistent argument that MySpace is sacrificing privacy for a more open model of information sharing. This argument gains ground when it appears that MySpace is moving to a more open model to benefit their own relationships with advertisers, and create an "advertising friendly" space.
Both MySpace and Facebook are quick to talk about privacy settings and how that enhances privacy, but the issue we're looking at here isn't controlled by privacy settings. It can only be remedied by modifying the underlying technology of these sites.