MySpace selling user data on the open market.

18 March 2010

MySpace, one of the biggest and best known social networking websites on the Net has announced that they'll be putting volumes of their users' data for sale on the open market. An outfit called Infochimps, which specializes in such bodies of data as stock market trading activity archives, political statistics, public service usage surveys, and social network data dumps will be handling the sales. The data will include such user generated content as playlists of music, posted photographs, blog posts, and users' stated locations. Some of the data dumps will even be organized by the (approximate) latitude and longitude of the users (not too difficult when you factor in the mobile app for MySpace). The data isn't being sold for any particular reason - you'd be surprised at how many people will analyze large volumes of data to see what patterns arise just for fun. Certainly, social science and new media researchers will take an interest in this data for their studies. Now, it shouldn't be all that surprising that people want to get their hands on this kind of information - a few researchers have been making use of the Google, Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace APIs for a while now to gather information. When you think about it a little it would be faster to just download the whole shebang all at once (and pay for the privilege of doing so) than it would to make several tens of thousands of HTTP requests over a period of hours or days.

Everyone out there should keep a few things in mind: First, if you put it on the Net, chances are someone will see it at least once. The indexing spiders of search engines certainly will. Secondly, as a corollary to the first caveat, if you don't want something known, don't put it online. Anywhere. Thirdly, any data you put online is potentially valuable to someone regardless of how trivial or dumb it sounds. Pictures of your kids are of interest to marketers because they imply that you'll be in the market for children's consumables, toys, clothing, or other stuff. Links to the profiles and websites of your friends describe the sorts of people you communicate with and how often, judging by the conversations you post. The news sites and blogs you read are indicative of your interests, likes, dislikes, and general opinions on pretty much any topic. Fourth, if there's a way to make money off of something on the Net, you can bet dollars to doughnuts that someone will try it.