Facebook Close to Offering Location Service, CEO Says

Facebook Inc., the world’s most popular social-networking site, is “pretty close” to providing a location-based service, Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said.

“We are working on this, knowing where a person is and being able to personalize what’s around them,” he said at an advertising industry conference in Cannes, France today.

The social-networking site has become popular for marketers such as Starbucks Corp. and Procter & Gamble Co. and doubled sales workers last year to handle increased advertising, which has more than quadrupled since the start of 2009. Location services may, for example, allow offers to be delivered to users based on where they are located.

Zuckerberg, who said Facebook has almost 500 million users, cited an ad campaign on Facebook involving Nike Inc. soccer World Cup commercials. The ads, first shown on Facebook, resulted in 3 million “connections” to Nike Internet pages in a “very short time,” he said.

The company is working with 83 of the top 100 brands, Mike Murphy, vice president of global sales, said in an interview. The sales heads of Facebook’s European offices attended this week’s ad festival and the company recently opened an office in Singapore, citing “great growth” and “demand for advertising” in emerging countries, Murphy said.

Movie Tickets

Recent highlights include a Facebook application with Walt Disney Co. that allows users to directly purchase movie tickets to “Toy Story 3,” and storefronts on the pages of Best Buy and Wal-Mart where users can discuss products and suggest others. Ford Motor Co. will launch its new Explorer sport-utility vehicle on the site in the third quarter, Murphy said.

Zuckerberg was at the annual event, attended by leading ad agencies and marketers, to collect the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival Media Person of the Year award.

Users and lawmakers who complained that the Palo Alto, California-based Facebook hadn’t done enough to help users keep data private “had legitimate concerns,” Zuckerberg said during his speech.

“People now find the value of sharing and they want more control over it,” he said. “With almost a half billion users, we’re making a transition. Our challenge is to make a safe, secure environment for users to share.”

Last month, 15 consumer groups filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, and officials from 30 European countries wrote a letter to Facebook complaining about its privacy settings.

In response, Facebook announced settings designed to make it easier for users to determine what happens to their information. Facebook previously had “too many settings,” Zuckerberg said today.

(Corrects the number of users in fourth paragraph.)
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