For the second time this year, Facebook has put its proposed policy changes to a vote. And the most talked-about change is whether to keep or dump the voting mechanism itself.
In addition to the so-called right to vote, Facebook users have the opportunity to vote on several other measures contained in the site's Data Use Policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. However, the current vote is limited to two wholesale options; users cannot choose what they'd like to keep and what they'd like to change.
Users can vote to keep Facebook's data and privacy policies the way they are, or they can vote for the updated documents. Voting began on Monday (Dec. 3) and will close in seven days on Dec. 10.
So far, the vote is overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the current policy, with around 114,000 votes for the status quo and nearly 11,000 for the new policy. But those votes don't really matter.
According to Facebook's rules, 30 percent of active members — more than 300 million people — must vote to prevent Facebook from updating its policies. Otherwise, the vote will be "advisory," the company said in a statement on its Governance Page.
The student-led Austrian group Europe V. Facebook has rallied users to submit roughly 90,000 comments against Facebook's new policies in the week following Facebook's posting of the documents. U.S. privacy advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Digital Democracy have also voiced their concerns.
The groups agree that the right to vote is important even if it's unlikely that the threshold of more than 300 million members will be met. If 300 million members do not vote?, Facebook will likely replace voting with a question-and-answer forum led by its policymaking staff.
Further, privacy advocates are concerned about Facebook's proposed pooling of data from its main network and Instagram, the photo-sharing social network that it recently bought.
But pooling data is not new. Earlier this year, Google faced criticism when it changed its policy to combine data from most of its properties. The company justified it, saying that pooling data will allow it to deliver better service to its users. Microsoft and Yahoo do the same. Their answer to criticism about data privacy? If you don't like it, you can delete your accounts.
Facebook users can share the fact that they voted, but the option is set to "only me," the strictest setting possible. To make the post visible to others, users can edit the privacy setting by using the pencil icon found in the upper right corner of the post box.
Facebook will announce the results of the vote on Dec. 11.