Facebook Faces More Opposition on Proposed User Privacy Changes

The massive social network wants to make changes to user policies but is facing opposition from critics who argue that user privacy would be weakened.

Facebook, which is no stranger to criticism from its users over its privacy policies, is facing a new round of discord from many of its customers over some freshly proposed changes.

In a Nov. 21 post on the site, Facebook said it wants to halt the current process of asking users to vote on proposed user policy changes and instead implement a new system of receiving feedback and comments on proposed changes. The company said it also wants to allow the sharing of user information with its affiliate services and that it wants to change the tools that allow users to restrict incoming messages from users that they don't know or want to blacklist.

The proposals inspired a quick negative response from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a nonprofit privacy group, which sent a four-page letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to detail its concerns.

"Because these proposed changes raise privacy risks for users, may be contrary to law, and violate your previous commitments to users about site governance, we urge you to withdraw the proposed changes," stated the letter, which was signed by Marc Rotenberg, EPIC's president, and by Jeffrey Chester, president of the Center for Digital Democracy.

"In 2010, you unveiled a set of simplified privacy controls in response to public criticism," the letter continued. "And in 2009, you agreed to back off proposed changes to the Terms of Service and establish the procedures for user input. Now, we ask that Facebook be similarly responsive to the rights of Facebook users to control their personal information and to participate in the governance of Facebook."

The changes would update two documents that govern Facebook: its Data Use Policy, which explains how it collects and uses data when people use Facebook, and its Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR), which explains the terms governing the use of its services, according to the post from by Elliot Schrage, Facebook's vice president of communications, public policy and marketing.

The idea to end user voting on policy-change proposals is due to the fast growth of Facebook, according to a spokesman who asked to remain anonymous. Presently, any proposed policy change must be opposed by 30 percent of Facebook's users in order to be blocked. But as the social media community has grown to more than 1 billion global users, it's apparent that such a milestone cannot be reached, which essentially means that the existing process is ineffective, the source said.