Tech Talk: Voting Apathy Shuts Down Future Facebook User Votes, Privacy Policy Changes Go Into Effect

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December 12, 2012 ‐ By Ann Brown

Jason Stitt /shutterstock

Are you a Facebook user? It seems you may have missed your opportunity to have a say regarding new Facebook  policies. On December 10th, Facebook ended a week-long open vote relating to data use and privacy changes. The social network announced that unless at least 30 percent of its membership — or around 300 million people– voted, then its users would not be part of future decision making and changes. Only “668,872 Facebook users — or .067 percent of Facebook’s total membership — voted in the site’s final Facebook Governance Vote, which asked people to weigh in on the future of democracy on Facebook and Facebook’s proposal to integrate data from Instagram,” reports The Huffington Post.

Did you even know about the vote? Some are wondering how Facebook was unable to attract enough responses. Since 2009, Facebook has had frequent voting about the network’s changes and voting apathy has always been a problem among Facebook users. “Not one of Facebook’s recent votes have attracted more than a paltry percentage of users: One held in April of 2009 garnered 665,000 votes, and one in June attracted just 342,000 users, according to TechCrunch.,” writes HuffPo. Although Facebook did make it easier to vote, emailed more than a billion people alerting them to the vote, and even held a live Q&A with its privacy team, some observers think the site didn’t do enough publicity around such an important event.

“Facebook, which is built to make things go viral, didn’t exactly go out of its way to position the vote front and center for its users. Facebook’s main Twitter account, @Facebook, was entirely mute on the matter,” states HuffPo.

This vote was vital to users on several levels. For one, since there was such a low turnout Facebook will no longer hold voting (something the company wanted to cease since becoming publicly traded). But there were more important issues on the ballot. According to TechCrunch, the changes include:

1)       Facebook can share data to and from its affiliates, including Instagram.

2)       Facebook may change who can contact you via Messages.

3)       Facebook may clarify who can view your content after you hide it from your Timeline.

Of those who did vote, the majority were against the end of the voting and the privacy changes. And don’t bother to issue a statement on your Facebook page as many users did incorrectly thinking the post will prevent Facebook from sharing their information. That, to use Gizmodo’s words, was “bogus and unenforceable,” a fact backed up by a statement from Facebook. The users’ statements generally read something  like this:

“In response to the new Facebook guidelines, I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details contained in my personal and business profiles, including, but not limited to: all postings, status updates, comments, illustrations, paintings, drawings, art, photographs, music, videos, etc. as per the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, (a/k/a the Berne Convention). For commercial use of any of the above, my written consent is required in each instance and at all times.”

Sorry, but now that the votes have been cast—or not cast—Facebook can share your posts with its partners. There’s no turning back now.

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