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Facebook opens polls, users vote against privacy-policy changes

December 04, 2012|By Jessica Guynn
  • Twenty-four hours after Facebook opened its polls, more than 100,000 users have cast their votes 10 to 1 against Facebook's proposed changes to its privacy and data-sharing policies. Above, Facebook employees walk the grounds of Facebook's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters.
Twenty-four hours after Facebook opened its polls, more than 100,000 users… (David Butow / For The Times )

Twenty-four hours after Facebook opened the polls, more than 100,000 users have cast their votes 10 to 1 against Facebook's proposed changes to its policies.

That includes a proposal that would do away with Facebook users' right to vote on future changes.

Hoping to get out the vote, the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy have joined forces with Facebook critic Julius Harper. They say they are campaigning to raise awareness about the vote.

"We are making good progress," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Most Facebook users don’t seem to know that a vote is taking place. In a half-hour live Web talk that Facebook hosted on Tuesday to respond to questions from users, one asked: "Is there a vote going on?"

Facebook said users can share that they voted with their friends. It also said it would alert users to the vote by email.

That didn't impress Harper. Some 300 million Facebook users would have to cast votes for the vote to count. Users have until Monday to vote on proposed policy changes.

"E-mail blasts get like a 2% open rate. If Facebook expects anywhere near 30% of people to vote on this, they need to put a rooster at the top of everyone's News Feed for the whole week," he said.

Harper, a 29-year-old digital strategist from Valencia, Calif., organized the grass-roots protest in 2009 to object to controversial changes to Facebook's terms of service.

The negative publicity prompted Facebook to begin letting users vote on major changes to how it handles their personal information. But Harper said Facebook set an impossibly high bar by requiring that 30% of Facebook users participate for a vote to count. Facebook has held two votes and neither met that threshold.

Facebook said it plans to give users other ways to weigh in on policy changes such as an "Ask the Chief Privacy Officer" question-and-answer forum on its website.

From the questions it fielded on Tuesday, users seem most concerned about how Facebook handles their personal information.

Among the proposals that users are voting on: whether Facebook can loosen restrictions on who can message you on Facebook and whether it can share information with its affiliates including popular photo-sharing service Instagram.

Last week the two privacy groups urged Facebook to withdraw the proposed changes.

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Follow me on Twitter @jguynn

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