Just who’s peeking at your Space when you’re not looking?

Theresa Wray

MySpace is Everybody’s Space.

More than 60 million people use MySpace to promote their music, develop relationships and talk dirty with their friends from the privacy of their own homes.

What they don’t realize is that MySpace is really “Everybody’s Space,” including sexual predators searching for teens and employers spying into the personal lives of potential job candidates.

“Students should be aware that the Internet is a very public forum,” said Camille Leon, program manager for the e7 Internship Program located in downtown Los Angeles, which manages internships for all nine colleges within the L.A. Community College District.

“Posts, blogs and e-mails are not confidential,” said Leon. MySpace is free and user-friendly. Once a profile is created, anyone with a computer can visit that site. Members who are older than age 16 do not have the options of making their profiles private. They can prevent specific users from posting a message but there is no way to block people from using Google to view their Web sites.

Some members avoid these issues by lying about their ages in order to make their sites more private. They also use fictitious names to prevent people from finding them on search engines.

“I use a fake name so I can talk shit with my friends without other people listening,” said Symphoni Sykes, a Pierce College student with an undecided major.

Site users who are 16 can set their profiles to “private,” but a visitor can still see partial information including gender, age, location and the member’s picture. The full profile is made available only after a member accepts the visitor as a “friend.” Nothing is private among MySpace friends.

“MySpace is all about how many friends you have and how popular you are,” said Paul Pallett, a fire science major at Pierce.

“We call them ‘MySpace whores.’ They accept everyone. That’s why they have the site in the first place.”

But being popular with virtual strangers carries hidden dangers. Anyone can access a member’s site through a search engine. This practice has become a new trend with employers who are using MySpace as a tool to perform background checks.

Human resources representatives from several companies participated in a seminar on Oct. 2 at CSUN to inform students about online privacy issues.

“At least 77 percent of employers are checking personal sites before hiring a candidate,” said Erika Schlarmann, director of staffing at Limited Brands, an Ohio-based parent company of six retail stores including Victoria Secret, Express and The Limited.

“Recruiters have eliminated 35 percent of candidates based on information they have discovered online.”

In spite of its privacy issues, MySpace continues to attract users, especially students. The original concept of MySpace, however, was to create a site where musicians could post their music.

“It’s a great way for bands to get heard,” said Linda Carberry, coordinator for the Pierce Halloween Harvest Festival. “I auditioned most of the bands for the festival by using their MySpace sites.”

Tom Anderson, a Santa Monica musician with a film degree, founded MySpace.com in July 2003. Anderson partnered with former Xdrive Inc. marketer Chris DeWolfe to create a space for musicians, models and actors to share their talents and create a fan base.

“It’s is a quick way to spread your work to a worldwide audience,” said James Elrick, a student at Pierce who is trying to promote his film career.

“It makes it easy for me to post my scripts and make industry connections.”

MySpace has become an influential part of contemporary pop culture. It is so popular that media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation acquired MySpace in July 2005 for $580 million.

As the popularity increases, privacy issues become more prevalent. In the meantime, human resources personnel will continue to appear at college seminars across the country to warn students about their online usage.

“I think it’s unethical to use personal Web sites as a tool for selecting job candidates,” said Erin McCaslin, an English major and human resources representative at Skytrails, Inc.

“People should just keep in mind that everything out there is free game.”