You will lose your ability to vote on Facebook privacy changes today


Unless a miracle happens, we will no longer have the ability to vote on changes to Facebook’s terms of service and privacy policy after today.

At 12pm PT, Facebook will cut off voting on its latest set of proposed changes to its so-called site governance documents, the Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, legal contracts that we all must agree to in order to use the social network.

Facebook stipulates that a full 30 percent of users – about 300 million people, at last count – must vote against proposed changes in order for the vote to be “binding.” If fewer users cast their ballot, the results are only “advisory.” At the time of this writing, however, only about 660,000 people have voted – 299.3 million fewer than is needed to make our voices matter in Palo Alto.

Facebook vote 2012

Of the 660,000 votes, about 580,000 have voted against the changes, which include putting a stop to the voting process altogether. Instead, Facebook wants to create a new way to get user feedback on changes in the future, such as surveys.

About 79,000 users have voted in favor of the changes.

Other changes to Facebook’s policies include allowing greater sharing of our personal information with affiliates like Instagram, alterations to the filtering of Facebook Messages, clarifications on the ability of advertisers to run political or religious ads, and increased visibility of user profiles in search engines.

Prior to this year’s voting, which started one week ago today, a pair of privacy advocacy groups, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), warned that the changes would increase risk for users. Specifically, the groups said that changes to Facebook Messages would likely subject users to an increase in spam, which is a major source of malware that can be used for identity theft.

While voter turnout this year is abysmally low, it is actually a significant increase over years past. In 2011, for example, just over 342,000 people cast their vote. The jump in user participation may have to do with Facebook’s additional promotions of the vote, which arrived in the form of emails and posts to users’ News Feeds. Clearly, that wasn’t enough.

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