Facebook users can vote on new proposed privacy changes
By Heather Kelly
(CNN) — Users have one week to vote on the proposed changes to Facebook’s policy, including the ability of users to vote on future privacy changes.
Voting opened on Monday, and users have until Monday, December 10, at noon PST to make their opinions heard. Facebook has put up a custom voting app powered by a third-party company for this vote, and the results will be tallied by an independent auditor.
“This feedback allows us to respond to your questions and make substantive changes to our proposals before they are implemented,” Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications and public policy, said in a blog post announcing the vote.
Facebook proposed the latest changes to its Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities on November 21. Users and privacy groups immediately expressed concerns over the modifications. In addition to a proposed end to public voting on these types of issues, Facebook wanted to change to how users control who can send them messages. Also, an addition to the Data Use Policy would allow Facebook to share data with affiliated business, such as Instagram.
On Friday, two privacy groups, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Digital Democracy, sent an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg objecting to the proposal.
“Because these proposed changes raise privacy risks for users, may be contrary to law, and violate your previous commitments to users about site governance, we urge you to withdraw the proposed changes,” read the letter.
They also say the changes could violate Facebook’s settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, in which the social network said it would obtain consent from users before sharing their personal data with third parties, and provide users with clear notice when that information is shared.
Facebook has a rocky history with privacy changes and resulting backlash from members.
In 2009, the site made previously private data such as friend lists and profile photos public by default. The following year, users were automatically oped into a new “Instant Personalization” feature that shared private information with outside companies such as Pandora.
The outpouring of comments on the Facebook post announcing the proposed policy updates was huge. More than 20,000 people commented on the post, voicing concerns over the company’s proposed updates.
“I don’t want advertisers to have my information. I made this account back in 2005 as a way to keep in touch with friends, not be bombarded by ever increasing advertisements,” commented user Nic Raines.
In that post, Facebook also proposed to end public voting on changes to site governance. The voting option was first rolled out in 2009 in response to privacy complaints over a chance to the sites term of use. At the time, Facebook had just 175 million users.
This voting app is a improvement over the previous system. Past votes just required 7,000 users to comment on an official Facebook post. Facebook said the reason it wanted to do away with votes was that the comment system valued “quantity over quality,” a problem the new system already seems to address.
There are about 1 billion people on Facebook, not including bots or fake accounts. Facebook will require 30% of those active registered users to take part in the vote for the outcome to be binding. If less than that percent vote, the company will take the results under advisement.
Getting 300 million Facebook users to vote could be difficult, especially with the lack of viral appeal such as a fake lottery ticket.
In addition to voting and commenting, Facebook users can join a live webcast on Tuesday, during which Facebook officials will answer questions.