After a flood of comments orchestrated by a privacy group triggered a vote on Facebook's proposed policy changes, the company opened up their second-ever Site Governance Vote with little fanfare on June 1st. The vote, which lasted only one week, saw 342,632 users participate. If you do your math, you'll find that comes out to a whopping .038% of Facebook's 900 or so million users.
Facebook said at the beginning of the vote that in order for the results to be binding, 30% of all active registered users had to participate - or roughly 270 million people. The fact that the mark was missed by a significant margin meant that the results of the vote were only considered "advisory."
And Facebook has taken the results under advisement and decided to go against the vote. Although 297,883 people voted to keep the existing Statement on Rights and Responsibilities and Data Use Policy (87%), Facebook has announced that they're going to go with the proposed updates to each document.
"We strongly believe these updates provide you with more detail and transparency about our data protections and practices," said Facebook's VP of Communications, Public Policy, and Marketing Elliot Schrage. "We received a great deal of positive feedback about these changes from our regulators and the many other stakeholders – including privacy and consumer groups – we consulted about these revisions.
"Most of the changes clarify rather than fundamentally change our standards. Many of the changes simply reflect recently launched products or conform language between our various policies. More significantly, the changes incorporate recommendations made by our regulators, including the Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s Office."
Some have questioned whether Facebook's effort to promote the Site Governance Vote was uninspired at best. Despite the fact that most tech news organizations and others in the media covered the vote, Facebook themselves didn't really do a whole lot to get the word out. All that marked the beginning of the vote was a single note posted on Facebook's Site Governance Page. Sure, Facebook didn't keep anything secret and has been pretty transparent with the whole process, but it's obvious to anyone that something as boring as a site governance vote requires quite a bit of buzz-generating effort in order to ensure a large percentage of people participate.
Schrage comments on this as well:
Despite our substantial outreach effort, the number of people who voted constituted such a small and unrepresentative percentage of our user community. We made significant efforts to make voting easy and accessible – including translating the documents and voting application into several of the world’s most popular languages and providing extensive notice through users’ news feeds and desktop and mobile advertisements. There has also been widespread media attention and coverage of our notice and comment and voting process.
Given these efforts and the subsequent turnout, we plan to review this process to determine how to maximize our ability to promote user engagement and participation in our site governance process in the future.
Some commenters on his post are less than convinced. One writes:
"Couldn't your 'substantial outreach effort' have included something as simple as a message that showed up on each and every facebook user's page????"
And another says,
"big dislike! The vote was obviously kept hidden from the users. There was no message or anything, but the functionality to notify all users about something is present as one can see when some new "important feature" is introduced. I call bullshit."
While Facebook never "hid" anything, the vote wasn't given a ton of promotion and hitting that 30% threshold was a pipe dream from the start. It's clear that this vote has ruffled some feathers, but as of now it's unclear if and how this will affect similar actions by Facebook in the future.
The new policies updated some language to reflect newer products, and we as changed some aspects of user data use when it comes to advertising. you can read about the changes here and then take some time to check out the revised documents (SSR) and (DUP).