Why is this happening?
Last week, Facebook invited all users to vote on proposed changes to the company’s Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, something it first did in 2009 in response to privacy complaints. If the newly proposed changes are accepted, Facebook will no longer ask users to vote on policy changes, making this week’s vote the last.
Facebook users who voted overwhelmingly chose to keep the existing policies in place. However, the percentage of overall Facebook users who voted wasn’t high enough to make the results of the vote “binding” — that would have required 30% of the Facebook user-base or roughly 300 million users, to vote. Instead, only about 600,000 users voted, making the results only “advisory.”
What will the changes mean for the Facebook user?
- Facebook will now collect user feedback via detailed suggestions instead of public voting
- Facebook will be able to more easily share data with affiliate companies such as Instagram
- Facebook will introduce new “filters” for managing messages
- Facebook will specify that advertisers can show political or religious content
- It will be easier for people to find your profile through search
Facebook says that direct voting has become an unwieldy way for the company to make policy decisions, but promises it will still “incorporate your suggestions into creating new tools that enhance communication on Facebook about privacy and governance.”
Internet privacy experts will likely be up in arms about Facebook casting off direct democracy for its users. However, it’s tough to fault the election process itself — Facebook ensured details about the vote were seen in users’ News Feeds and email inboxes, though some say it could have done more to advertise the vote. It also allowed users to share their vote with friends, which in real-world elections can boost voter turnout. The company was transparent about its proposed changes, offering easily downloadable comparisons between old and new.
Why was the participation rate so low?
Could it have been because of the lack of users’ interest in their privacy? A fake and legally open to discussion status message, which many users believed would protect their data if posted on their account, recently went viral. The message can also be found posted thousands of times in the comments section of Facebook’s official posts about the policy change vote.
How about you? Did you participate in Facebook’s vote?