Facebook Removes Public Votes on Privacy Changes
If, like me, you noticed the long-winded email about privacy from Facebook this morning, scanned what you considered the key points and then deleted it, you may have missed just how big a change this actually is to the democratic nature of the social network.
Prior to the changes outlined in the announcement, Facebook users worldwide had two things when it came to Facebook privacy changes – a voice, and a vote. We’re all down to just one now, a voice. Under previous rules, any data privacy issue relating to Facebook that received 7,000 or more comments would become subject to a vote.
According to the latest changes outlined in today’s communication, any such issue will now require the backing of a minimum of 30% of Facebook’s registered users in order to be put to a vote. That means that over 300m people will need to participate, and even then there are no guarantees.
Facebook’s argument, as outlined in their email, is that they want “more meaningful” ways for users to give feedback, citing that the current model encourages quantity of posts above quality. While this stance is indeed defensible, the outlandish figure of 30% essentially represents a brick wall to users who want to voice their concerns about privacy changes.
The general consensus within the industry is that Facebook are planning these changes in order to pave the way for a raft of sweeping changes to the way in which Facebook utilises their vast amounts of user data. Facebook has already proposed combining information across their various services, including massively popular applications such as Instagram.
Ominously, Instagram holds masses of geo-location data on its users. This hugely valuable commodity is of particular use to marketers, who are always looking to serve ever more relevant, targeted advertising. Google’s recent data merge was unpopular amongst many, and received heavy criticism from EU data regulators. Google were subsequently advised that it must do more to explain to users how (and why) their information was being used.
While Facebook has not confirmed any plans to merge data services in the immediate future, they have done nothing to dispel these rumours and have refused to rule it out either. A campaign to combat the privacy changes lead by community website, Our Policy, is already underway, and has amassed over 5,500 comments in the space of a few hours.
Along with various other criticisms, the Our Policy website states that the proposal is too vague. “We want Facebook to use clear and understandable language,” the website says. “We oppose that Facebook is using ‘like’, ‘may’ or ‘could’ instead of clear statements. This makes it impossible to clearly know what we consent to.”