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MSN UK shuts Member Directory over paedo fears

'Preventative measure'

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MSN UK has shut down its Members Directory over fears, presumably, that it could be used by paedophiles searching for young victims.

This is our assumption, because MSN refused to discuss exactly why it had decided to close the directory which lists its members' details.

Unlike Microsoft's very public closure of its chat rooms last September to protect children from paedophiles, its decision to close its Members Directory has been sneaked out under the carpet.

A message on MSN's Web site reads: "As of 30 March 2004, MSN UK has temporarily closed access to the MSN Member Directory."

Question is, why? We called Microsoft's press office which dusted down the following drawer statement: "While MSN Member Directory does not allow people to directly search for profiles of MSN Members by age for age groups under age 20, it does currently allow searching for MSN user profiles using other criteria, with results that may include people under 20.

"While we have not received any reports of this capability being exploited, MSN has shut down the Member Directory in the UK as a preventative measure, based on that local market's request.

"In the April timeframe, MSN will deliver a global solution that will prevent people from finding profiles of MSN members under age 18, unless they know their direct screen name.

"This will help to further deliver a more secure online experience for children by ensuring that their details cannot be accessed in the MSN Member Directory."

It sounds like MSN is concerned about a personal security loophole that exposes its younger users to unwelcome attention. That's just our guess, mind, since no one at MSN, in the UK or the States would comment. Indeed, no one was able to say what prompted the move, who had "requested" the closure and why. ®

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