Jun 302011
 
 June 30, 2011  Business

Ben Popper reports:

Myspace’s biggest asset is arguably its userbase of somewhere between 50 and 65 million people. Myspace posted a dozen data sets on the data marketplace Infochimps in March, with information on status updates, user activity, apps, photos and more, with prices ranging from $25 to $150.

To be clear, the data on Infochimps does not personally identify users. “The data MySpace sells through Infochimps is intended to help someone track certain types of behavior at a bird’s eye level, such as how many users are in certain zip codes and how many times a certain word is mentioned on the service. The records in these data sets are completely anonymous,” a representative wrote in an email.

But the acquisition today by Specific Media is quite different. They bought the profiles lock, stock and barrel. Now they will use them for their core business, ad targeting. Considering the going prices on Infochimps, Specific just got a great bargin, picking up between 50-65 million user profiles for about fifty cents a pop.

Read more on BetaBeat.

This may surprise some who might think that I’d be outraged by the news, but I am neither shocked nor particularly upset by it.  Didn’t we all expect it?

Companies sell their assets – including their customer base- all the time. MySpace has gone downhill in the past years.  What does it have left to sell except all that yummy data its users provided in exchange for their free service?  And if you read their fine print, is there really anything in their privacy policy or terms of service that assured users their data would never be sold at all, ever?

But if  users think this is bad, what happens if/when Facebook does the same thing down the road?

I’m actually more concerned that pharmacies and hospitals can include patient/customer data when they sell out to another hospital or pharmacy.  Surprised?  There’s an exception in HIPAA that seemingly permits that and I’ve seen it happen in some bankruptcy situations or big chain takeovers.

All in all, this strikes me as just another reminder that in the U.S., it may be our information and our details, but we don’t necessarily have the right to control who can get that information or how they can get it.

Hopefully, Specific Media will have clearly posted directions on how to completely and permanently delete profiles and they will honor such requests because that’s an issue that still needs to be addressed – and in my opinion – legislated.  We should have some recourse and protection so that if we don’t want a company to have our  data when we have no relationship with them, they have to delete it.  In the absence of a recognized right   that companies cannot buy our data without our consent, at the very least we need some assurance that they cannot use it to contact us or to market to us without our consent.

And with that, I’ll just wait over here while Adam Thierer splutters at my less than business-friendly attitude.

More on the sale of MySpace here.

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