Facebook site governance vote opens – for the last time?

4 Dec 2012

Following a response from Facebook to clarify some of the changes it has proposed to its Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (SRR), the Facebook site governance vote is now open. And, barring an overwhelming response, this could be the last time the decision is put to its members.

Facebook first put forward the changes to its policy documents a few weeks ago. The key amendments refer to how Facebook users interact using its messaging service, what it means when content is hidden from users’ timelines, the sharing of users’ data with affiliates, and the proposal to eliminate the current site governance process of voting in favour of a system of regular feedback and engagement.

A feedback window was then opened up and Facebook has now addressed a request from users (and the Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s office) to further clarify some of its proposed changes.

Sharing information

In terms of sharing information with corporate affiliates, Facebook has assured this is in line with standard practice in the industry and that its purpose is to enable effective and efficient use of its service (the example posed is that users whose service is provided by Facebook Inc., based in California, can interact with those whose service is provided by Facebook Ireland Ltd, based in Dublin). The proposal documents have since been adapted to reflect this clarification.

“We’ve revised this proposal to make it clear that the sharing of information among our affiliates is and will be done in compliance with all applicable laws, and where additional consent of our users is required, we will obtain it,” said Elliot Shchrage, Facebook’s vice-president of communications, public policy and marketing.

Facebook also clarified what this change means for affiliates such as Instagram, which it acquired this year, saying it will allow Facebook to store Instagram’s server logs and administrative records in a way that is more efficient than maintaining totally separate storage systems.

Meanwhile, student group europe-v-facebook – who oppose the proposed changes – is threatening to challenge the findings of the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner in its audit of Facebook Ireland.

The vote

The next step in the site governance process (as it now stands) has now begun, and users can vote on whether or not to accept the proposed changes until 10 December at 8pm. For the decision to be binding, 30pc of users need to vote – which would be a turnout of about 300m. Anything less – which is far more likely – and the result of the vote will be taken under advisement.

At 5.30pm Irish time today, a live webcast will take place involving representatives from Facebook in the US and Ireland available to answer users’ questions. Users can click the ‘Talk to Us’ button to pose questions to panellists during this discussion.

Facebook users can view the proposed changes and cast their vote using a Facebook app developed by Thuzi, a third-party service provider, and an independent auditor will examine the vote tabulation. Results will be announced on 11 December.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.