Facebook is expected to say this week that it has reached 500 million users, making it the biggest information network on the internet in a meteoric rise that has connected the world into an online statehood of status updates, fan pages, and picture exchanges, the Washington Post reports. In its six-year history, the site has become ritualized in our daily lives. It has even attracted the unwilling who join for fear of being cut out of the social fabric. It has connected old friends and family. It has helped make and break political campaigns and careers. It has turned many of us into daily communicators of one-line missives on the profound and mundane. And it has tested the limits of what we care to share and keep private. The sheer impact and size of the Facebook universe has captured the attention of federal regulators and lawmakers who are struggling to protect consumers and their privacy as they flock to this and other sites like Twitter. The privately held company that still thinks of itself as a startup is also learning how to handle the new responsibilities that its massive trove of information about its half billion users brings…

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Maya Prabhu