Facebook might be the top-drawing site for U.S. Internet users at the moment, but let’s not forget that MySpace has hundreds of millions of users around the world and is still a serious destination for online music fans. And now aggregate data about those users and their activities is available for sale on data-wholesaling startup InfoChimps. Although friends lists are not included, the data sets to offer user playlists, application usage, blog posts, mood updates, reviews, photos, and more, including MySpace user data collated by latitude and longitude, ZIP code, and more. According to some reports, InfoChimps will not be alone in offering MySpace data for sale.
The data sets seem to be intended for MySpace application developers looking for ways to test their apps before taking them live to MySpace, as well as for academics, researchers, and music industry analysts looking to get a handle on MySpace’s broad demographics. While most social networking services that accept advertising offer aggregate demographic information to advertisers about their users, MySpace’s move marks the first time data from a major social networking site has been blatantly offered for sale on the open market.
MySpace is within its rights to offer the aggregate user data: legally, the data and server logs belong to MySpace (and it’s parent company, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp), and MySpace users waive their rights to that data in exchange for MySpace’s services.
The degree of backlash directed at MySpace may depend on how well the data offered for sale is anonymized. Back in 2006, AOL released more than 19 million search requests by its users collected over a three-month period without sufficiently anonymizing the data: within days individual AOL users had been identified from the logs, and AOL was facing lawsuits from outraged users and consumer advocates.
[Update 18-Mar-2010: InfoChimps characterizes the for-sale datasets as a value-added service they're providing from data MySpace gives "out for free from their API." The financial nature of the arrangement has not been disclosed, but InfoChimps says it has an agreement to redistribute the MySpace data "with revenue share." MySpace says the information is from its publicly available real time feeds, and if MySpace users don't want their data included they can adjust their privacy settings. ]