Facebook's privacy vote - what the email actually means

To vote, users have to use an app, then select 'Existing policy' rather than 'Proposed policy'. (Image: Facebook)

Facebook has sent all its users an email this week about a vote on its proposed changes to Data Use Policy - the site's term for its privacy policy.

The dry, quietly worded email is more significant than it sounds.

Unless 300 million people (a third of Facebook’s users) vote ‘against’ by Monday 8pm GMT, the networking giant will no longer allow users to vote on policy changes.

The move has caused concern among privacy groups, who say it’s “impossible” for 300 million to vote in the time period, and that users are worried that their “voices will no longer be heard”.

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So far, the vote stands at less than half a million, but is around six to one against the new Statement of Rights and Data Usage Policy.

The wording of the vote itself is not a simple 'Yes' or 'No' – to vote against, users have to select, ‘Existing Documents: The current SRR and Data Use Policy,’ as opposed to ‘Proposed Documents: The proposed SRR and Data Use Policy’

The voting page is here.

Privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation's Activism Director Rainey Reitman says, "The voting system currently in place doesn't work; it is simply impossible to get 30% of the users (300 million individuals) to vote on anything on Facebook within 30 days.”

“The overwhelming majority of users participating in the vote right now are voting against removing the voting system."

"We believe this shows that Facebook users are concerned that their voices will not be heard, and do not want to lose the ability have a say in site governance.  While the vote may never end up binding Facebook, voters are sending a message about a serious concern, and one we hope Facebook respects and responds to.”

Facebook claims that the change is to streamline 'voting' in favour of a system that allows "meaningful feedback".

Elliot Schrage, Vice-President of Communications said, "We’re proposing to end the voting component of the process in favor of a system that leads to more meaningful feedback and engagement."

The site says, "Voting will end on December 10 at 8:00PM. If more than 30% of all active registered users vote, the results will be binding. If turnout is less than 30%, the vote will be advisory."

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