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Facebook is expected to announce sometime this week that it has topped half a billion users. That's 500 million globally. For a website that began life in the humble environs of a college dorm room, it's quite a milestone. However, many of those users are concerned about how their information is being used, as Facebook has learned repeatedly as it has made changes along the way. The question remains, though, when the service has grown from 400 million users to more than 500 million in less than six months, are privacy concerns really likely to change how business is done in social networking?
Half a billion users? Great! Surely a large percentage of them have multiple accounts just so they can keep different circles of “friends” — because Facebook doesn’t allow different circles within one account.
More importantly, perhaps, we all need to heed David Vladeck, head of consumer protection at the Federal Trade Commission, when he says:
“As the amount of personal information shared on social networking sites grows, and the number of third-party companies and advertising networks with access to such information grows, it is important that consumers understand how their data is being shared and what privacy rules apply.”
If a site’s always changing its privacy policies, then who can know what those policies really are? I mean, why do most social-networking sites even have privacy statements? According to many of them — if you read them carefully — you don’t have any privacy. Furthermore, you give up any other rights once you join those sites, giving them license to use any content you post however they see fit.