June 30, 2011, 1:40 PM — We’ve all had our youthful indiscretions. That time you “borrowed” dad’s car without asking and wrapped it around a pole. The time you drank too much at your friend’s wedding and puked all over the bridegroom’s shoes. The day you signed up for a MySpace account.
Just as dad took away your allowance and your friend never spoke to you again, your social networking mistakes may now come back to haunt you. MySpace was purchased lock, stock, and barrel by online ad firm Specific Media this week. Included in the $35 million haul: An estimated 50 to 65 million user profiles – arguably MySpace’s single most valuable asset.
(Also taking part in the purchase: Justin Timberlake. His next wardrobe malfunction will occur in cyberspace.)
[See also: Facebook's fake friends epidemic ]
What will Specific Media do with this treasure trove of data, purchased at the low low price of 40 to 60 cents a head? Good question. There are plenty of things they could do.
One is to simply continue to run MySpace as is, collecting ad revenue. A second revenue option is to take that data, combine it with other data Specific Media has collected, and use that to target ads to you across the Web. Option C is to rent various slices of MySpace users to direct marketers, data miners, background check firms, and the like. That’s a virtually endless source of revenue.
There’s also option D, all of the above. I’ve asked Specific Media to answer this question, and if they do I’ll update this post.
Of course, Specific Media is a member of the Network Advertising Initiative, Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the Digital Advertising Alliance. While that’s a positive sign -- it means the company is a mainstream online ad firm, not a gang of Eastern European cyber thugs – it is no guarantee they won’t take your data and do whatever they want to it.
Remember: Industry groups like the NAI were not created to enhance your privacy. They were created to get Congress off the online advertising industry’s back by fostering the illusion of “self regulation.” And if self regulation had actually worked, we wouldn’t still be talking about the need for legislation protecting your personal information from, well, people like Specific Media.
That doesn’t mean Specific Media is evil. It just means that there’s nothing stopping them from being evil, besides their own internal moral imperatives.