CANBERRA (Reuters Life!) - Workers surfing the Internet social networking site Facebook could be costing their employers billions of dollars in lost productivity, an analysis by an Internet security firm said on Monday. Facebook is the latest Internet networking craze, with more than 230,000 Australians already signed up and reports of more than 100 new users every hour.
Internet security company SurfControl looked at the phenomenon, and found Australian workers who keep a close watch on their Facebook profile page were costing their employers up to A$5 billion ($4 billion) a year.
"People love being there and telling people what they are doing right now, what their thoughts are right at this second," SurfControl chairman Richard Cullen told Australian radio.
"It's so interactive that people just get addicted to watching their Facebook groups all the time."
Facebook allows friends to keep in touch, post photos and monitor one another's moods and movements. It also enables people to meet others and form new social networks.
Cullen said his findings were based on a typical Facebook user, earning an average wage, spending an hour a day on line. He then calculated the cost to companies if one person in every organization spent an hour on Facebook instead of working.
"We got the extraordinary figure of A$5 billion," he said.
Cullen said banning Facebook from work computers was not necessarily the best way to combat time wasting, as the site encouraged socializing, which in turn made people happier to work longer hours.