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Facebook adopts new data use policy against wishes of its users… Well, those that spoke up, anyway

Facebook asked its users to weight in on the subject of data collection and privacy policies and the people, they have spoken. Well, some of them have, at least; instead of the hoped-for 270 million votes necessary to create a binding resolution, less than 350,000 ballots were cast – amounting to just 0.038 percent of Facebook users. Clearly, more of “the people” don’t really care about that kind of thing than those who do.

Facebook officially opened voting on the subject of its Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights on June 1, asking for user guidance on proposed modifications from Our Policy, a group that had a clear agenda when it came to the social site’s DUP, including ensuring that data use would be opt-in as default, all uses of collected data to be made public, and all collected personal data to be made available to users in raw format within 40 days of request. Explaining that it “listen[s] to feedback and [is] pleased that so many commentators have been so positive and supportive about this process,” Facebook put its own proposed amendments to its Data Use Policy up for a vote, allowing users to say whether or not the amendments should be put into place or abandoned. The catch, however, was that it said that 30 percent of the userbase would be required to voice an opinion in order for it to listen one way or another.

That, of course, didn’t happen. Instead, only 342,632 users voted – overwhelmingly against the amendments, if that matters; the outcome was 297,883 against, with 44,749 voting for. The company is facing criticism over the way it failed to properly publicize the vote (According to Ars Technica, the company “made no material effort to make users aware of the vote beyond posting to its Site Governance page, which has been ‘liked’ by over 2 million people” – Less than 1% of those needed to vote in order to make the results binding), suggesting that even if the vote was not exactly private, it wasn’t exactly public, either.

In a statement on the Facebook Site Governance page, the company’s VP of Communications, Public Policy and Marketing, Elliot Schrage, wrote that “As stated in both governing documents and throughout this process, when less than 30% of all active registered users vote, the results are advisory. Today Facebook will adopt the proposed updates to our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and Data Use Policy, which you can view by using the following links: SRR and Data Use Policy.”

“Despite our substantial outreach effort, the number of people who voted constituted such a small and unrepresentative percentage of our user community,” he continued, adding that “Given these efforts and the subsequent turnout, we plan to review this process to determine how to maximize our ability to promote user engagement and participation in our site governance process in the future.”

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