MySpace Giving Parents a Peek at Profiles

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Spurred on by four recent liability lawsuits by families who claim their daughters were sexually assaulted by people they met through the service, News Corp-owned MySpace is developing a new tool that will allow parents to glean more information about their children’s MySpace profiles.

Code named “Zephyr,” the software will monitor the log in names, times, profile changes, and other pieces of information of a particular MySpace user. Zephyr does not keep itself a secret, and will notify the MySpace user that their profile is being watched. The monitoring software also will not give parents access to the user’s password-protected profile or to their communications with other MySpace members.

One aspect MySpace wants parents to pay attention to is the user’s specified age. “Many of our safety features are built around age and it’s important that people honestly reflect their accurate age while on our site,” said Hemanshu Nigam, MySpace’s chief security officer in a statement. MySpace divides its service into two halves so that members above and below the age of 18 are unable to contact each other. However that doesn’t stop younger members from lying about their age to gain access to older parts of the site (and vice-versa).

MySpace also restricts the amount of information those under the age of 15 can display about themselves.

Of all the social networks, MySpace in particular has taken a lot of legal heat. The company has been threatened with lawsuits by 33 states because of crimes perpetrated by individuals who first contacted their victims through MySpace.

There have been numerous third-party applications designed to give parents more information about what their kids do on MySpace, but Zephyr is the first official program. According to the Wall Street Journal, MySpace has tried to sell the tool to other social networks like Facebook, but all declined saying that Zephyr violated their privacy policies.

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