Facebook users overwhelmingly oppose privacy policy change

Voting runs through Dec. 10 but it's not clear whether enough users will weigh in

With voting open on Facebook's proposed privacy policy changes, more than 110,000 users have weighed in -- and so far, the vote is heavily in favor of not making the change at all.

Facebook historically had a rule that any of proposed policy changes that attracted 7,000 "substantive" comments would be put to a vote. That will no longer be the case.

Facebook recently announced that it is moving to amend how it pushes through changes to its privacy policy. Noting a lack of quality comments on past votes, the social network no longer wants to allow users to vote on proposed changes.

According to its standing rules, however, users still have a chance to vote on giving away their right to vote.

As of 3:30 p.m. ET Tuesday, 9,670 people had voted in support the move while 101,686 voted to stick with the old rules and retain their say on future changes.

Voting is scheduled to end on Dec. 10 at 3 p.m. ET.

However, the vote may not be binding.

According to Facebook's standing rules, if more than 30% of all active registered users vote, the results will be binding. If the voting turnout is less than 30%, the vote will be nothing more than advisory.

Since Facebook has more than 1 billion active users, more than 300 million people will need to vote.

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said he doubts the vote will be anything more than pointless.

"I would be very surprised if they see anywhere near the 30% voting rate they need in order for this election to count," he added. "Given Facebook's 1 billion or so users, the folks who want to force Facebook to back down on their privacy policy changes would need 300 million users to weigh in. I think the voting exercise will turn out to probably spell the end of voting on Facebook policies."

Olds also doesn't think that the policy change would rattle most users. "I think the overwhelmingly vast majority of Facebook users don't think about privacy and don't have any idea that there are any changes in the works," he said.

However, there have been some high-level concerns about the proposal.

The Data Protection Commissioner in Ireland, where Facebook's European Union headquarters is located, quickly contacted the social network for a clarification of its position. And the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy teamed up to ask Facebook to withdraw the proposed changes, noting that users have a right to participate in Facebook's governance.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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