Facebook puts proposed policy changes up to a vote following activist campaign

Facebook has made proposed revisions to its Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities open to a user vote between now and June 8.

The vote is the second of its kind since Facebook decided in 2009 to give users the option to review proposed policy changes and then offer a vote if more than 7,000 users comment on those changes. User Max Schrems, who leads the activist group Europe Vs. Facebook, encouraged users to comment “I oppose the changes and want a vote about the demands on www.our-policy.org.” More than 10,000 users did so on the English-language version, and there are thousands more on other pages.

Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer for Policy Erin Egan told TechCrunch that the company will consider changing its voting threshold to promote quality over quantity, and prevent spam-like comments from triggering votes in the future.

“[Schrems] is interested in us changing our product, but these revisions are about our policy. We can’t please everyone,” Egan told TechCrunch.

The proposed revisions do not include any major changes to how the social network collects or uses user data. The changes are mostly updated wording — for example, using “Timeline” instead of “profile” — and added clarification about existing policy. Clearer examples and user tips have been added to the Data Use Policy per recommendations from the Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s Office, which audited the social network’s data collection practices last year.

Users can visit the Facebook Site Governance page to review all changes, compare these with the existing policies and read Facebook’s explanation of the changes. Through an application, users can vote for either the new policies or the previous policies. To the dismay of Schrems and Europe Vs. Facebook, there is no option to vote for an alternative policy. His group, for example, calls for all Facebook features to be opt-in rather than opt-out and for Facebook to provide users with full access to all personal data in raw format within 40 days upon request.

Voting will end June 8 at 9 a.m. If 30 percent of active users vote, the results will be considered “binding.” That means if fewer than 270 million of Facebook’s 901 million monthly active users vote, the results will be considered “advisory” but non-binding.