Teenagers should beware of Murdoch-owned website MySpace.com snatching their digital identities, child campaigners have warned.
Freechildsafeweb.com, which lobbies for the safe use of MySpace, said small print in the new terms and conditions, introduced since the acquisition of MySpace by News Corporation last year, could mean that careless content posted by teenagers could come back to haunt them later in life.
"If you post risqué images as a teen and later move into professional life, these images along with any comments, journals and conversations can be sold to the press and there is nothing you can do. It is worth remembering, the owners of Myspace.com - News Corp - are the Press," an unattributed article on Freechildsafeweb said yesterday.
Approximately 68m people use MySpace as a personal exhibition space and networking club. Many of these would have originally agreed to terms and conditions, (retained by Freechildsafeweb), that give the website non-exclusive rights to use the material they display there, but only while they keep it there.
"This license will terminate at the time you remove such content from the website," the old terms read.
However, new terms introduced after News Corp's acquisition of MySpace, extend the website's rights over any content their users upload.
They give MySpace "non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free" worldwide license and sub-licensing rights "to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly display, store, reproduce, transmit, and distribute" any matter posted by its users, including "messages, text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, profiles, works of authorship, or any other materials".
"Content posted by you may remain on the MySpace.com servers after you have removed the content from the services, and MySpace.com retains the rights to those copies," it adds.
Paul Varney of Freechildsafeweb contacted The Register by email to air his concern:
"I want to bring this to the attention of the 65M+ (MySpace) users, as many I feel are perhaps not aware of these very different terms, especially band recordings, or young teens who post content that may come back to bite them in later years," he said. MySpace has caused a lot of concern for campaigners such as Freechildsafeweb for the way in which teenagers use it to socialise freely.
"Would you allow your 14 year old daughter to regularly 'hang out' with older men in the evening in the park, wearing masks, her pretending to be 16, they pretending to be only 17? Getting to know the intimate thoughts and personal details of your daughter's likes and dislikes, exchanging personal information about her school, location and friends," warns Freechildsafeweb's Myspace campaign leaflet.
For its part, MySpace has been trying to counter the warnings. Early last month it removed 200,000 profiles for containing risqué or hateful matter.
Yesterday, veteran child safe internet worker Hemanshu Nigam joined MySpace to take care of safety, education and privacy. Nigam is the former director of child safe computing at Microsoft. He also fought as a prosecutor in child pornography, predator, trafficking and crime cases at the US Department of Justice and was a White House advisor on cyberstalking.
MySpace was unavailable for comment.
Murdoch has since freed the children. Updated terms that are dated 1 May remove the right for the web site to keep matter published by its users for as long as they like, doing with it what they like.
The terms now include a reference that will remove MySpace's right to the content when the user pulls their matter from the site, which should leave teenagers free to make a complete embarrassment of themselves today, delete the evidence and forget all about it when they grow up - unless anyone has archived their bloopers.
MySpace was checking out the terms at the time of writing, but their vice president of marketing said they were constantly working to protect the privacy of their users.®