MySpace.com, News Corp.'s popular online social network, plans to offer free parental notification software in a bid to appease government critics, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
Parents will be able to use the software, named "Zephyr," to find out what name, age and location their children use to represent themselves on MySpace, the Journal said.
It would not allow parents to read their children's email or see their profile pages, and it would alert children that their information was being shared, the paper reported.
The news comes as a group of 33 state attorneys general considers whether to take action against MySpace if it does not raise the age limit to join the site to 16 from 14 and begin verifying members' ages, the paper said.
A lawsuit would make for bad publicity for the site just as advertisers are overcoming their concerns about it, the paper said.
News Corp. bought the service for $580 million in 2005, and some analysts have speculated that it could be worth billions of dollars in the next several years.
Popular among teenagers, the site has had to deal with public criticism that some children who use it provide too much personal information, making them easy prey for sex offenders.
A primary challenge has been to add safety features while not alienating teenagers, the Journal reported.
Another problem is skepticism from the rest of the Internet industry, the paper said. One big question is whether the service would violate users' privacy rights; another is whether other people besides parents could use the software to monitor children, the Journal said.
The privacy question prompted social networking site Facebook and blogging site Xanga to decline to join MySpace's efforts, the paper reported.
Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and AOL have not said whether they would join the effort, the Journal said.
MySpace said in December that it would start offering technology to identify and block convicted sex offenders. The service would cover about 46 state sex offender registers.
MySpace also requires members over 18 years old to know the email and first and last name of any 14- or 15-year-old members whom they want to contact.
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