Beginning today, Facebook users will have one week to vote on whether the company should adopt proposed changes to its privacy and user rights policies.
Facebook allows people to vote on revised policies if a revised policy gets more than 7,000 comments, which both its proposed Data Use policy and Statement of Rights and Responsibilities documents have in recent months.
To be binding, more than 30 percent of Facebook's 900 million-strong base of active monthly users (people who have either logged in or taken some action on the site in the last month) will need to cast votes. They will have the option of voting in favor of adopting the two new policy documents or in favor of keeping the existing policies. Voting will be closed at 8:59 a.m. PT on June 8 and users will be notified about it on the Web site. An independent auditor will examine the vote tabulation.
This is the second vote Facebook has put to its users. The first was in 2009 when it changed its Terms of Service and revised them after a public backlash.
The vote is being conducted here.
User feedback from all the comments on the policies was incorporated into the final documents as much as possible, according to Erin Egan, chief privacy officer of policy at Facebook. "We did incorporate feedback when it was responsive," she told CNET. "Too many comments were just too broad."
While nearly 48,000 comments were posted on the Data Use policy proposal and more than 51,000 comments on the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities proposal, many of the comments were general statements opposing Facebook's overall privacy practices and did not address the specific proposed changes, she said.
As a result, the user feedback and revision practice was less effective than it could have been so executives are considering changing the process, said Barry Schnitt, director of corporate communications and public policy at Facebook.
For example, 99 percent of the Data Use revisions comments were a simple "I oppose the changes and want a vote," or something similar, and linked to a "www.our-policy.org" Web site that one European user created, Schnitt said. The "Europe versus Facebook" behind the site was started by a law student at Vienna University, Max Shrems. His message went viral but it wasn't exactly helpful to the process, Schnitt said, declining to elaborate on what changes might be made to address that issue.
"We plan to review this process in the coming months, particularly in light of the current notice, comment and vote process, to determine whether it appropriately reflects the growth of our community and business and to ensure it still serves its original purpose," Elliot Schrage, vice president of communications, public policy and marketing, writes in a blog post today announcing the vote.
The vote comes as the company is dealing with another process that didn't go so well -- its IPO. Since it went public, Facebook's stock has declined, it's been named in at least one shareholder lawsuit, and executives face allegations of limited disclosures. The site also had unexplained outage yesterday.
Updated 10 a.m. PTwith link to blog post and vote URL, more background on the "Europe versus Facebook" movement that compelled the vote, and more details on changes in the proposed policies and mention of outage.