Facebook hits 500 million users
Social networking site goes from strength to strength despite privacy concerns.
Last Modified: 22 Jul 2010 09:37 GMT
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg rebuffed criticism of feature changes or privacy safeguards at the website

The number of people using the Facebook has reached half a billion, meaning one in every 14 people in the world has signed up to the social-networking website.

"As of this morning, 500 million people ... are actively using Facebook to stay connected with their friends and the people around them," Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, said on Wednesday.

"This is an important milestone for all of you who have helped spread Facebook around the world," he said.

A poll released last week in the US suggested that Americans are increasingly obsessed with Facebookand that many young women check their page even before using the bathroom in the morning.

However, a US study released on on Tuesday indicated that while people may be addicted to Facebook they rank it near the bottom when it comes to customer satisfaction.

Facebook came out with one of the lowest ranks of any company measured by the Index, alongside airlines and cable television companies, in the bottom five percent of private companies ranked in a 2010 American Customer Satisfaction Index E-Business Reportproduced in partnership with ForeSee Results.

"Our research shows that privacy concerns, frequent changes to the website, and commercialisation and advertising adversely affect the consumer experience," Larry Freed, ForeSee chief executive, said in a press release.

Public understanding

However, Zuckerberg pointed to Facebook's unrelenting growth to rebuff criticism of feature changes or privacy safeguards at the website.

Facebook recently overhauled privacy controls in the face of a barrage of criticism that it is betraying the trust which has made it the world's biggest social network.

Barry Fox, an internet security and technology analyst, told Al Jazeera that people are going to have to learn how to use Facebook safely.

"They [social networking sites] have been such a huge success that they have run ahead of public understanding of the risks you run ... the risk to privacy," Fox said.

"What people don't understand is that when you post material on a site like Facebook, it's there forever.

"Even if you close your page it will have been copied and stored by somebody else.
That kind of education isn't getting across.

"Once you get involved in this you are throwing yourself open to people you've never met. Parents should look at what sites their children are looking at. There should be no locked doors for children on the internet."

Al Jazeera and agencies
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