Facebook Privacy Activists Mistaken in Victory Claim
by Leslie Meredith, TechNewsDaily Senior Writer
May 22 2012 05:03 PM ET
Max Schrems, student leader, Europe-v-Facebook
CREDIT: Anne Helmond
Facebook's Data Use Policy drew 10,500 comments in English and 30,000 in German driven by an Austrian student activist group, Europe-v-Facebook.org.
In all, the Vienna-based group claimed nearly 50,000 comments and issued a list of 24 demands, including:
- We want Facebook to obtain explicit consent from all users when changing the “data use policy.”
- We want Facebook to ensure that content on other people's pages cannot be made more public after someone else commented on it.
- We want Facebook to stop tracking users through “social plugins” (e.g., "like" buttons) on third-party Web pages.
Students claimed they had stopped Facebook from making the changes unilaterally, but that's not how it works. A provision in Facebook’s Data Use Policy states that Facebook will allow users to vote on alternatives proposed by Facebook if more than 7,000 users comment on a proposed change. The vote is binding if "more than 30 percent of all active registered users as of the date of the notice vote" — that's more than 300 million users – for each proposed change and its alternatives. (As of March, Facebook had 901 million monthly active users .)
Based on a scan of the English comments posted on Facebook's Governance site, it is unlikely that any of the redlined changes proposed in Facebook's Data Use Policy garnered enough comments to qualify for a vote. Aside from a blanket "We oppose Facebook's proposed new Data Use Policy," most of the comments were requests to remove a ban on making "friend" requests. (Facebook does this when a user makes a certain number of friend requests over a short period. To Facebook, that's spam or worse.) Commenters also asked for help uploading photos from Facebook's mobile app.
What's next? Facebook has posted that it plans to review and analyze comments over the coming days and will keep members posted on next steps.