Xanga to Pay $1 Million in Children's Privacy Case

By Yuki Noguchi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 8, 2006

Social-networking site Xanga.com Inc. and its operators said yesterday that they would pay a $1 million fine for alleged violations of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, at a time of heightened parental and government concern about children's safety online.

In a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, Xanga also agreed to increase its privacy controls after allegedly collecting, using and disclosing personal information collected from children under age 13.

The settlement named the company and its principals, Marc Ginsberg and John Hiler.

The site, with 25 million registered members, is one of several Web sites where people meet and make connections.

The settlement followed numerous congressional hearings and several legislative proposals aimed at addressing concerns that younger Internet users are exposing themselves online to sexual and financial predators. MySpace, after complaints and media reports that its site was being used by sexual predators, this year hired a security chief.

The law "requires all commercial Web sites, including operators of social networking sites like Xanga, to give parents notice and obtain their consent before collecting personal information from kids they know are under 13," FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras said in a written statement. Although the site said children under 13 were not permitted to join, it accepted registrations from those who submitted birth dates indicating that they were underage.

Hiler, Xanga's chief executive, said the company has hired a chief safety officer and would add safeguards to help it police the site for use by underage members.

"When these issues came to our attention, we instituted a stronger, more comprehensive safety and compliance program," Hiler said.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company