The new democratic face of social networking?

27 Feb 2009

Social-networking site Facebook has been criticised in the past for its terms of service and how it retains user data. However, in a move to recapture trust amongst its user base, the company has decided to let it have an active role in developing future policies.

“As people share more information on services like Facebook, a new relationship is created between internet companies and the people they serve,” said Mark Zuckerberg (pictured), founder and CEO of Facebook.

Zuckerberg went on to say that the swift and negative reaction to the amended terms of service over data retention in the past few weeks had helped him realise the feeling of a “real sense of ownership over Facebook itself, not just the information they (users) share.”

This decision followed a controversial change to Facebook’s privacy policy on 4 February which meant that user data would be retained, even after accounts had been deleted; a change that soon reverted to the original terms.

“Companies like ours need to develop new models of governance,” Zuckerberg said of the new drive to include users in shaping privacy policies.

“Rather than simply re-issue a new Terms of Use, the changes we’re announcing today are designed to open up Facebook so that users can participate meaningfully in our policies and our future,” he added.

This is something that no other online service has done to date: promising to add “transparency and democratisation” into the mix, but with a worldwide user base of over 175 million, Facebook has a not-so-small population to contend with.

What this new model means is that if over 7,000 users make a comment on any proposed change at the virtual town hall, it will go to a vote.

“This decision should go far in restoring people’s trust, and I hope it sets a precedent for other online services to follow,” said Julius Harper, co-founding administrator of the People Against the new Terms of Service group on Facebook.

By Marie Boran

Pictured: Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook