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Facebook wants to end user voting on policy changes

If not enough users vote, then they will lose the right

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
November 21, 2012 | Comments
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/2be8

Did you know that you, as a Facebook user, can vote policy changes that the website makes?

In fact, you've had that right since 2009, but Facebook has only let you use it twice. I would bet that most users have no idea that they had any kind of voice, and Facebook seems to like it that way. In fact, if the social network gets its way in the latest upcoming vote, users will not have the right to vote on any changes at all for very much longer.

In a blogpost on Wednesday, Facebook said that it was proposing updates to its Data Use Policy, which explains how Facebook collects and uses the data of its users, and to its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, which explains the terms governing the use of our services.

The proposed changes to these documents would alter how Facebook users would be able to express their opinions about the changes that the social network proposes regarding its privacy policy.

“Our goal has always been to find ways to effectively engage your views when we propose changes to our governing policies. That commitment guided our decision in 2009 to launch an unprecedented process for user feedback,” Elliot Schrage, Vice President, Communications, Public Policy and Marketing at Facebook, wrote.

But the system does not work, Schrage writes, since “the voting mechanism, which is triggered by a specific number of comments, actually resulted in a system that incentivized the quantity of comments over their quality.”

“Therefore, we’re proposing to end the voting component of the process in favor of a system that leads to more meaningful feedback and engagement,” he said. 

New ways of responding to user questions and comments about Facebook will be rolled out in the next few weeks, he said, including Ask the Chief Privacy Officer, which will let users submit questions directly to Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer of Policy, Erin Egan.

Egan will also host live webcasts that will address user comments and questions.

There are other changes being proposed, beyond how users get to vote, including replacing the “Who can send you Facebook messages” setting on Facebook Message with new filters for managing incoming messages; changes to Facebook refer to certain products, such as instant personalization; reminders about what’s visible to other people on Facebook; and tips on managing a timeline.

The way the current system works, if 30% of all Facebook users vote for or against the new proposals, the result will stick. If less than 30% of users vote, then the result merely becomes “advisory,” and is essentially meaningless.

Given that 300,000 people would have to take part in this to alter what Facebook is proposing to do here, I think we can all guess which way this is going to go.

This might seem a little complicated, but try to stay with me here: Facebook users are essentially asked to vote on whether or not they should have the right to vote in the future. And the system has been set ip so that, since so few of them are going to vote, they will almost certainly lose the right.

To sum up: not that many people will be affected by these changes, and that is the problem.

In June, the last time Facebook put its proposed changes to its privacy policy up for a vote, only 342,632 of the then 900,000 users took the time to give their opinion. 30% of all Facebook users would have been closer to 270 million.

In all, only .038% of all Facebook users voted last time. And that is what Facebook seems to be counting on this time too.

(Image source: http://www.mesocary.com)


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