Posted January 14, 2008 6:39 pm by with 3 comments

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As promised, MySpace makes a big announcement today about “Internet safety.” And no, it has nothing to do with not tripping over your power cord.

Naturally, MySpace’s Internet safety announcement is about increasing privacy and safety for its minor members. ReadWriteWeb reports that the updated features will include:

  • For users 16 and 17 years of age, the default profile setting will now be private — previously this was a default only for 14 and 15 year old users (14 years old is the minimum age for site membership).
  • MySpace will look into the creation of a “children’s email registry that will empower parents to prevent their children from having access to MySpace or any other social networking site.”
  • The creation of an “Online Safety Task Force” that would develop and review online safety tools (such as those used for age verification).
  • The launch of an “online safety public service campaign” to teach parents how to keep their children safe on the Internet.
  • No user can browse for users under 16.
  • Users under 18 are restricted from age-inappropriate areas such as Romance and Relationship, or Mature chat, forums and groups, nor can those users browse based on categories such as relationship status, smoker, drinker, or income
  • Users over 18 can only search the school section for high school students graduating in the current or upcoming year.

Nice ideas . . . but my minor sister’s profile says she’s 100 years old. . . . Will these new guidelines automatically go into effect for her?

The guidelines, called the “Principles of Social Networking” (although what I think they meant to say the “Principles of Privacy for Minors in Social Networking”), were drafted by MySpace and 49 US state attorneys general.

For those of you in the know, you’ll note that number that means one state’s attorney general didn’t sign on for the project. So who is this renegade AG? Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Now, of course, it’s not that Mr. Abbott thinks that child predators have rights, too—he doesn’t. In fact, according to a CNET blog, he objects because he thinks these principles don’t go far enough:

Although we believe that, along with other state attorneys general, is working to protect social-network users, we cannot endorse any initiative that fails to implement a reliable age verification system. Doing so would give Texas parents and their children a false sense of security.

Abbott has a point. The principles proposed are a step in the right direction, but nothing prevents minors from lying about their age when they sign up. MySpace Chief Security Officer Hemanshu Nigam says “that more research and development is necessary” on the age verification technology.

  • I think it’s a pretty good move from MySpace. That way, there would be less profiles for online sexual predators to prey on. While it doesn’t provide a fool-proof plan (as you said, kids can easily change their age on MySpace), it’s a start.

  • I think they need to up age to 21.

  • Jordan McCollum

    By 21, most people have been in college for three years. They’ll abandon MySpace if they can’t effectively search for their friends.

    Besides, 18 is the age of majority in the US.