Facebook wants you to spend more time on – yep, you guessed it – Facebook.
Citing "people familiar with the matter," the Financial Times is reporting that the social media giant is secretly developing a new website called Facebook at Work, though Facebook declined to comment to the Financial Times and this news was not independently verified.
That website, the report says, will let co-workers chat with each other, share documents, and network with other professional contacts, posing a challenge to companies such as Microsoft, Google, and LinkedIn that have solidified themselves as having the go-to software- and Internet-based work products.
However, that may change if Facebook – which has more than 1 billion monthly active users – releases a product designed to let people translate their social experience with the site to their office. The Financial Times reports that this new site will have the same user interface as the normal Facebook, but people will be able to keep their personal profiles, such as photos and posts, separate from their work identities. It is not clear when this new site will be released, but the report says it is currently being tested with companies.
Social media has long been present in office settings, with many companies banning social media sites from the office and employees secretively posting and chatting with friends. Employers also check up on prospective candidates' social media presences. According to a 2013 survey from Career Builder, 39 percent of companies use social media sites to research job applicants.
Of those who use social media, 43 percent said they had found information that caused them not to hire a candidate, including inappropriate photos and bad-mouthing former employers. Still, 19 percent of hiring managers said they found information that made them want to hire an applicant, including a candidate with wide-ranging interests or who conveyed a "professional image."
But a Facebook used particularly for professional and work activities could remove some of the stigma involved with Facebook at work. Granted, employers could likely still canvass the web for information about employees and job applicants on their personal Facebook profiles.
Because the Financial Times reports that this site will likely be free to use for the time being, people will be offered incentives to spend even more of their day-time hours on Facebook, under the auspices of "working." And with Facebook generating the majority of its revenue from advertising, the more eyeballs it attracts to its site, the better.
The past year has seen Facebook garner the ire of a privacy-worried public. People became outraged last summer when it was revealed that Facebook had deliberately manipulated users' news feeds to determine whether increased positive or negative content triggered positive or negative reactions among users. Though Facebook subsequently apologized for its actions, it contributed to the ongoing conversation surrounding the kinds of data social-media companies collect from users and how that data gets used.
In a mark of growing concern surrounding the collection of users' Internet information, a recent Pew Research study found that 91 percent of Americans feel they cannot control what personal data of theirs gets collected online.
"[T]here's an overwhelming sense that consumers have lost control over the way their personal information is collected and used by companies," Mary Madden, senior researcher for Pew, told The Christian Science Monitor last week.