Proposed policy changes to Facebook
Facebook announced on Nov. 21 it was proposing policy changes regarding its privacy settings. The changes would:
Remove users' ability to vote on proposed changes to the site, and replace with a forum on the site's privacy page
Change Facebook's policy on data use to allow it to share user information with its affiliates, including Instagram
Compiled by Katherine Hafner, Bruin senior staff.
Facebook in recent years
Price for which Facebook bought Instagram
Amount of comments currently needed for users to vote on Facebook policies
Amount of Facebook population participants currently needed for user voting to be binding
SOURCE: New York Times, Los Angeles Times
A Facebook status chain letter has been circulating on the social networking site, voicing users’ concerns against the site’s proposed changes to governance and data use policies that were announced last week.
One of the proposals would remove Facebook users’ ability to vote on proposed changes to the site, instead allowing them to post questions in a forum on the site’s privacy page.
Currently, Facebook posts proposed policy changes on its site governance page and opens a forum for users to comment on the proposed changes.
If a post garners more than 7,000 comments, Facebook’s policy allows users to vote on the proposed changes.
The voting results are binding only if 30 percent of the Facebook population participates. The voting option has been used only twice before and only once successfully, in 2009, when the policy was first adopted.
The company will also change its policy on data use to allow it to share user information with its affiliates, and vice versa, according to a statement released by Facebook.
This includes Instagram, the popular photo-sharing service that Facebook purchased in April for $1 billion, according to The New York Times.
“In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details … (and Facebook) is strictly forbidden to disclose … (this profile’s) contents,” the statuses read.
But Facebook has not yet stated whether it will actually implement the proposed changes, or when they would take effect.
Jean-Francois Blanchette, an associate professor of information studies at UCLA, said he is not surprised by the proposed changes because they make sense for Facebook as a business.
“If you pay a billion dollars for an entire company (like Instagram) … of course you want to merge (their databases),” he said. “It’s not exactly a surprise because Instagram is such a popular service.”
Cody Cooper, a third-year mechanical engineering student, said he still plans to use Facebook even if the proposed changes take effect.
“I mean, I ““ and probably most people ““ use Facebook for social interactions, so if 90 percent of people use Facebook then I’m going to use Facebook too,” he said.
Anya Platt, a second-year psychobiology student, said she heard about the changes when she saw in her News Feed that some of her Facebook friends had posted the chain letter as their status.
“Realistically, it won’t change how I use, or how anyone uses, (Facebook) because the benefits of having a Facebook (account) outweigh the costs,” she said.
Though many students said their use of Facebook would not change, several said they were still unhappy with the proposed changes.
“I don’t like the changes … (and) I feel like it’s a security issue,” said Rosario Tabares, a second-year undeclared student. “I don’t understand how it will improve anything, and I don’t think there’s a need for it.”
Cooper is also not in favor of the proposals, he said.
“(Facebook) can do whatever (it wants) and we don’t really have a choice because it’s not like we’re paying for it or anything,” he said. “But at the same time I don’t like it just because they’re already a successful company, so it’s kind of superfluous for them to just allow themselves to take our information.”
Users are not the only ones protesting the proposed changes.
Consumer interest groups such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy are also calling for Facebook to rescind its proposed updates. Both organizations said Facebook is infringing on its users’ privacy and breaching a settlement it entered into with the Federal Trade Commission in April.
The settlement requires Facebook to get consent from its users before changing its privacy settings, and was the result of an allegation that Facebook deceived its users about how much personal information was shared with the company, according to the L.A. Times.
Cooper said he would continue to use Facebook, regardless of potential privacy issues.
He said he would only stop if everyone he interacts with online moved to a new social networking site.
“If I really get screwed over by Facebook, then I’ll stop using it altogether,” he said. “But until then, I’ll risk it.”
Email Chelsea at firstname.lastname@example.org