Murdoch’s MySpace expands data collection/ad targeting, including on whether users say they smoke, drink, religious beliefs, etc.

The powerful commercial forces shaping new media platforms like MySpace–so they can better reap big dollars from powerful brand advertisers– should raise user alarm bells. MySpace is going to [our italics] “leverage the data input by each MySpace user into their profile from a group of predefined menu choices (related to questions such as drinker, children, education, smoker, religion, college, employer, etc). Within the next year, MySpace will be able to target ads based on what users write and place on their Myspace page itself, such as what TV shows members like to watch or music they listen to. Aside from focusing on members’ login pages, the ad targeting will be used across all of the MySpace-programmed, “safe” advertising sections, such as the Music homepage and MySpaceTV.” That’s according to a 8/24 report from

On August 17th, Coca Cola also paid $1 million to “have its logo splashed across the entire home page of the Fox Interactive Media social net for the entire day.”

Such news follows last week’s report from the Wall Street Journal on Facebook’s plans to expand the role of advertising and targeted marketing as well. Much more work needs to be done to create social networks where marketing is done responsibly in terms of privacy, environmental sustainability, and with the focus on revenues serving community interests.

Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission should open up an investigation. It’s additional evidence that the agency has to swiftly act to protect consumers, including youth. The upcoming town hall on online marketing and data collection–done in response to a complaint filed by this blogger’s group and USPIRG–is insufficient. What will it take for the FTC to be proactive in this area? Congress should hold hearings on how well the agency is truly addressing the ever-growing threats to online privacy from interactive marketing, including its impact on the public health.

PS: Just a reminder about what a former Fox Interactive president said about MySpace, according to trade reports: the “digital gold inside of MySpace wasn’t the number of users, but the information they’re providing, structured and unstructured data” …

PPS: More on what to expect from profile-based targeting via MySpace [excerpt from 8/7/07 Mike Barrett interview] :”By October or November we’ll have broken these 11 segments into 100 segments. So you can target people who are not just interested in beauty, but makeup. Or people not just interested in travel, but safari travel. Being able to break down the segments even more finely will add more value to marketers.”

Social Relationship data collection and targeting [via imediaconnection]: “Conventional wisdom says that MySpace and Facebook are powerful because of their massive reach and addictive usage. While true, they are in fact even more powerful because they are able to add significant layers of data to make their advertising more relevant. Indeed, very few properties other than social networks collect the various layers of data necessary to provide true relevance. Social networks have the potential to serve advertisements based on a user’s age, sex, interest, relationship data, and with some modifications, they could add the rest of the data as well.”

The imediaconnection piece says that social network marketers can define relationship data by asking itself: What do we know about the user’s friends that can enable us to better target the advertising.”

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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