Facebook Anti Democratic Privacy Change Blasted by Online Advocacy Groups


The Center for Digital Democracy and the Electronic Privacy Information Center sent an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking the social network to withdraw its proposed privacy changes, which — among other things — would remove the ability for users to vote on modifications to Facebook's data usage and privacy policies, change how users filter incoming messages on Facebook, and freely share user data between the social network and Instagram. 

The letter says that the planned changes “raise privacy risks for users, may be contrary to law, and violate Facebook's previous commitments to users about site governance.” The consumer groups think the social network tried to "slip the changes under the radar" by announcing them the day before Thanksgiving.

According to PC World, Facebook was praised in 2009 for its decision to introduce site governance voting, the right to vote on policy changes that — however — has been largely ignored by the majority of Facebook's members (the most recent vote was in June, when 0.1% of Facebook's then more than 900 million users voted on a set of proposed privacy policy changes).

Facebook says that the company only considers a user vote binding if 30% of the social network's users participate. Jaime Schopflin, a Facebook spokeswoman, said, "a very very small minority of people that use Facebook voted, which was pretty disappointing from our point of view [...] we're realizing that this is a process that doesn't work.” 

However, both The Center for Digital Democracy and the Electronic Privacy Information Center think that Facebook's voting requirements set an “unreasonably high participation threshold.” They say that the right to vote must be kept in place no matter what, and add that getting rid of the vote “raises questions about Facebook’s willingness to take seriously the participation of [its] users.” 

The privacy groups also expressed concern about Facebook intention of eliminating the "Who can send you Facebook messages" feature, a setting that allows users to control who can contact them through the social network. The organizations say the change could lead to users receiving increasing amounts of spam.

Lastly, the Center for Digital Democracy and the Electronic Privacy Information Center believe that Facebook's intention of sharing user information with "businesses that are legally part of the same group of companies that Facebook is part of,” or "affiliates (Instagram)," would violate Facebook's pledge to operate Instagram independently of Facebook.