Vote likely on Facebook privacy policy changes

More than 47,000 comments in English and German on Facebook's proposed privacy policy changes is way more than needed to trigger a required vote by users.

Tens of thousands of users have commented on the proposed privacy changes on Facebook, which meets the threshold for a vote by users.
Tens of thousands of users have commented on the proposed privacy changes on Facebook, which meets the threshold for a vote by users.

If you don't like proposed changes to Facebook's privacy policy you will soon get a chance to vote yay or nay on them.

There's a little known provision in the company's revised Statements of Rights and Responsibilities that says: "If more than 7,000 users comment on the proposed change, we will also give you the opportunity to participate in a vote in which you will be provided alternatives. The vote shall be binding on us if more than 30 percent of all active registered users as of the date of the notice vote." Facebook now has more than 900 million monthly users.

There are about 10,500 comments on the proposed Data Use Policy, which was posted May 11. A quick glance at some of the comments shows some dissatisfaction with the proposed changes and an understanding about the voting provision. CNET sister site ZDNet notes that there are more than 37,000 comments in German on the proposed policy change. Comments were closed for tallying purposes on Friday.

"I oppose the changes and want a vote about the demands on www.our-policy.org," many of them say in what is clearly an organized opposition.

It's unclear when a vote will be conducted, but it's likely to be "weeks" rather than "days."

"Right now, we are going through to see if there are things that make sense to change or that we want to respond to," said Barry Schnitt, director of corporate communications and public policy at Facebook.

Facebook users also are likely to get a chance to vote on the company's revised Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which prompted more than 7,000 user comments after it was first proposed in March and was then revised last month based on feedback. It would make sense for the votes to happen at the same time on both documents, but it sounds like Facebook is still figuring out how to handle this.

Facebook representatives say the privacy policy changes -- adopted largely in response to recommendations of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner -- will create more transparency . The changes (in PDF, explained on this Facebook post and in a Q&A ) also are seen as the company is preparing to serve up ads on sites other than Facebook that could reflect interaction by Facebook users.

That the new Data Use Policy already includes (users') feedback and feedback from regulators," Schnitt said. "We commit to being as responsive as we can be to peoples' concerns and we have demonstrated that."

The "Europe versus Facebook" group behind the "Our-policy.org" site that orchestrated the opposition in the comments on the Facebook policy change posting is demanding: an opt-in versus an opt-out system for data use; clear language stating exactly what Facebook is doing with the data; the ability for users to permanently delete their data they have "removed" or "deleted;" Facebook to get explicit permission from users before making changes to the data use policy; limited the use of user data for ad purposes; and an end to tracking users through social plug-ins like buttons on third-party sites.

A vote on either policy would be only the second for the social media company. In 2009, Facebook updated its Terms of Service and users got upset over what appeared to be changes giving Facebook greater control over user content. After a fast and furious public backlash, Facebook modified the proposed changes and then allowed users to vote on whether or not to adopt the revised policy, according to Schnitt. The policy was adopted after the vote.

 

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