Facebook opens vote on privacy changes

Facebook is asking its one billion users to vote on a variety of changes to the social network’s policies, including a proposal to scrap the very voting system being used to garner opinion.

Facebook opens vote on privacy changes

Facebook claims it has “clarified” some of the proposed privacy changes, specifying that a new policy allowing it to share data with recently acquired photo-app Instagram will be carried out in compliance with applicable laws, and that Facebook will seek user consent when necessary.

The proposed changes generated roughly 89,000 user comments as well as concerns from privacy groups, and a request for more information from the Data Protection Commission in Ireland, where Facebook’s European business has its headquarters.

“Based on your feedback and after consultation with our regulators, including the Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s Office, we’ve further clarified some of our proposals,” said Elliot Schrage, Facebook VP for communications.

The Irish authority failed to investigate many things. Facebook also gave the authority the run-around

Facebook is proposing to eliminate the four-year-old system that allows users to vote on changes to its governance policies. The company says the voting system hasn’t functioned as intended and is no longer suited to its current situation as a large publicly traded company subject to oversight by various regulatory agencies.

Facebook said it would incorporate user suggestions for creating new tools to “enhance communication” on privacy and governance matters.

Another proposal would loosen the restrictions on how members of the social network can contact other members using the Facebook email system. The company said it planned to replace the “Who can send you Facebook messages” setting with new filters for managing incoming messages.

Instagram changes

Facebook’s potential information sharing with Instagram, a photo-sharing service for smartphone users that it bought in October, flows from proposed changes that would allow the company to share information between its own service and other businesses or affiliates it owns.

The change could open the door for Facebook to build unified profiles of its users that include people’s personal data from its social network and Instagram, similar to recent moves by Google.

Facebook said the proposed change was “standard in the industry” and “promotes the efficient and effective use of the services Facebook and its affiliates,” such as allowing users in the US to interact with users in Europe.

“This provision covers Instagram and allows us to store Instagram’s server logs and administrative records in a way that is more efficient than maintaining totally separate storage systems,” the company wrote in a separate post on its website Monday titled “explanation of changes”. “Where additional consent of our users is required, we will obtain it.”

Facebook users have until 10 December to vote on the policies using a special third-party application provided by Facebook, and the company said the results will be certified by an independent auditor.

The vote is only binding if at least 30% of users take part, and two prior votes never reached that threshold.

Legal action

The vote comes as privacy campaigners in Europe have launched a legal attack on the company in Ireland, where its international operations are based.

Campaign group Europe-v-Facebook has been seeking more protections on privacy from Irish regulators, but, unhappy with the results, is now planning on taking on the company directly.

“The Irish authority is miles away from other European data protection authorities in its understanding of the law, and failed to investigate many things. Facebook also gave the authority the run-around,” the group said in a statement.

“We are hoping for a legally compliant solution from the Irish data protection authority. Unfortunately, that is highly doubtful at the moment. Therefore we are also preparing ourselves for a lawsuit in Ireland.”

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