MySpace Steps Up Safety Efforts with 'Zephyr'

MySpace is continuing to be the focus of criticism for not protecting its younger users sufficiently. Thus the site is developing “Zephyr,” a system that allows parents to control their children’s access to the social networking site.

Existence of the tracking software was first confirmed by the Wall Street Journal in an article Wednesday. A release date has not yet been announced.

Zephyr is a small application that can be installed to monitor profile changes and logins. The program would even alert parents when their children log into the site from computers other than their own. It is not anonymous, however –- a tracked user is notified if the program is watching them.

Access to the actual content of the profile is not permitted, although the parent will likely be able to search for his or her child using the site itself.

The call to take action has become louder in recent months, due to the increasing number of crimes where a victim was first contacted through MySpace. Additionally, Attorney Generals from 33 states is threatening legal action if the site does not sufficiently deal with the problem.

While programs already exist from third parties, Zephyr is the first effort by the site itself to address the issue. The company says that it hopes the program would help spur discussion between parents and children about staying safe when online.

The company has also attempted to sell the idea to other social networking sites including Xanga and Facebook, the WSJ says. However both declined, saying the program would violate their privacy agreements with users.

It has also been marketed to other Internet properties, including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL. However, it received an equally cold reception from those parties as well.

Attorney General Roy Cooper says the program stops the child too late: “At best, it's after the child has offered his age. At worst, it's when he's already left to meet a child predator.”

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