Facebook to End User Voting on Privacy Policies

The social networking company said it is modifying the way it changes its privacy policies to encourage better feedback.

Social networking giant Facebook sent an email to all its members on Nov. 21 alerting users of its plans to change its user-based system of voting for privacy policy changes, replacing a system in place since 2009 which would put any potential policy change to a vote if more than 7,000 user comments about the change were generated.

However, the final vote required 30 percent or more of the worldwide user base to cast their virtual ballot on the policy change. As Facebook passes its one-billionth user, the 7,000-comment mark has become too easy a target to hit, but the 30 percent participation requirement became harder to attain.

The company is proposing updates to two documents which govern the site: the Data Use Policy, which explains how Facebook collects and uses data when people use Facebook, and the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR), which explains the terms governing the use of Facebook’s services.

Facebook wants to end the voting component of the process in favor of a system that leads to “more meaningful feedback and engagement,” the company’s vice president of communications, public policy and marketing Elliot Schrage wrote in a company blog post.

“We will continue to post significant changes to our Data Use Policy and SRR and provide a seven-day period for review and comment. As always, we will carefully consider your feedback before adopting any changes,” Schrage explained. “We will also provide additional notification mechanisms, including email, for informing you of those changes. In the coming weeks, we will roll out new ways of responding to your questions and comments about Facebook.”

The Data Use Policy also includes updates that provide more descriptions about Facebook’s practices and reflect changes to their products, including new tools for managing Facebook Messages – replacing the “Who can send you Facebook messages” setting with new filters for managing incoming messages and changes to how they refer to certain products, like instant personalization.

Other changes include reminders about what’s visible to other people on Facebook, such as when a user hides things from their timeline, those posts are visible elsewhere, like in news feed, on other people’s timelines or in search results.

Finally, Facebook will offer tips on managing user timelines. For example, users can employ tools on their timeline or activity log to delete their own posts, or they can ask someone else to delete a post in which they are tagged.