Facebook today instated a new Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities that will allow the company to share information with affiliates like Instagram and put an end to site governance voting, among other more minor changes.
The social network put the proposed terms up to a user vote, following a protocol established in 2009. Only 668,872 users voted, so even though the majority voted against the proposed changes, Facebook decided to move forward with the new governance documents. Results are only binding if at least 30 percent of users participate. In this case, less than 1 percent voted.
It’s largely for this reason that Facebook is removing the voting option with the terms adopted today. This was the third instance of user voting in the company’s history and each time only a small percentage participated. The small turnout ends up not being representative of the user base. Earlier this year and again with this latest proposal, activists copy-pasted the same comment over and over to trigger a vote on policy changes. At Facebook’s scale now, and especially as a publicly traded company, it will face government and other third-party regulation that could hold the company more accountable than a user vote ever could.
Facebook is also leaving in language requiring the company to provide a seven-day comment period in advance of any change. The social network is adding new ways to educate users about site governance issues and receive feedback. A new feature will allow users to submit questions to Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan through Facebook’s official privacy pages, and Egan will begin appearing in livestreamed events where users can share their concerns or request more information.
The new Data Use Policy also includes new language about “affiliates” to cover Facebook’s relationship with Instagram, which it acquired this year. Facebook and its affiliates can share information to understand user activity or provide customized experiences, including personalized ads.