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This may be the last time Facebook lets you vote on policy changes

Facebook has opened up what may very well be the last public vote.


Fidel Martinez

Internet Culture

Posted on Dec 5, 2012   Updated on Jun 2, 2021, 6:08 am CDT

Facebook has opened up what may very well be the last public vote.

In late November, Facebook proposed updates to its Data User Policy (DAP) and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR)—the site’s two governing documents—that would alter the way the company shares your data with their affiliates and would limit a subscriber’s input in future privacy changes.

Under current company policy, suggested revisions are put to a vote if at least 7,000 people comment on the post announcing the proposed changes. The Nov. 21 announcement received well over 20,000 comments, triggering the voting mechanism set in place.

Facebook is required to adhere to the vote’s outcome only if 30 percent of its 1 billion users—roughly 300 million—cast their ballot. If this were to happen, the company would adopt whichever policy is chosen by the majority of the voting public.

Subscribers can currently vote on the potential changes via a third-party Facebook application. Among the new modifications are two key provisions that users should be concerned about.

The first will make it easier for Facebook to share data with their affiliates, including acquired companies like Instagram.

“This provision covers Instagram and allows us to store Instagram’s server logs and administrative records in a way that is more efficient than maintaining totally separate storage system,” the company’s “Explanation of Changes” states.

“We’ve added additional language to this proposal to clarify that the sharing of information among our affiliates is and will be done in compliance with all applicable laws, and where additional consent of our users is required, we will obtain it.”

The second and perhaps more significant modification to the governing documents is the elimination of the user base’s ability to decide on any policy changes moving forward. Facebook argues that the current system is no longer adequate and as such a new one must be implemented, one that doesn’t include a voting mechanism.

The likelihood that these provisions will be implemented is very high. The last time Facebook held a vote, only .038 percent of all users participated.

That lack of participation will occur this time around if the current voter turnout is any indication. As of this writing, less than 150,000 have cast a ballot.

Photo via Facebook

Despite the fact that Facebook will more than likely get its way, the company is already trying to assuage people’s fears.

“Some of you were concerned that by ending the vote mechanism, you were losing your ability to shape the policies that govern Facebook,” wrote Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s Vice President of Communications, Public Policy and Marketing.

“To be clear, our goal in modifying our site governance process is to make sure that we receive feedback from you in the best, most productive way possible so that we can be responsive to your input.”

That feedback, however, will only be advisory instead of mandatory.

Facebook’s likely last vote will end on December 10 at noon PST. Facebook users can cast their ballot here.

Photo via Facebook

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*First Published: Dec 5, 2012, 11:56 am CST