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Facebook changes its Data Use Policy and scraps user voting

The letter is, however, genuine. Yes, it “is genuinely an email from Facebook,” commented Graham Cluley in the Sophos NakedSecurity blog. But he is somewhat critical of the process: Facebook is giving its users just seven days to respond to the content. “I'm sure that the fact Facebook has chosen to do this across a major US holiday is purely an unfortunate coincidence rather than a deliberate timing decision,” he writes, adding, “if Facebook wants more users to respond and feedback regarding the changes to its data use policy it should display a message as users log into the site. That would, at the very least, go some way to reassure them that the emails are legitimate.”

It is possible that Facebook does not want a huge response from its users, since its new proposals are far-reaching. Key, perhaps, is a change to the current policy governance regime. “Previously,” points out the Telegraph, “if 7,000 comments were made on a proposed change to the site's service this triggered a vote by users who could strike down unpopular sitewide policies.” Now Facebook is scrapping this facility. 

“We deeply value the feedback we receive from you during our comment period,” says the letter, “but have found that the voting mechanism created a system that incentivized quantity of comments over the quality of them. So, we are proposing to end the voting component in order to promote a more meaningful environment for feedback.” This more meaningful environment would appear to be “a feature for submitting questions about privacy to our Chief Privacy Officer of Policy.” In other words, Facebook users will no longer be able to vote on changes to the privacy policy, but will be able to ask about them.

Two current changes are relevant. One is to allow data sharing between Facebook, its affiliates and its advertising partners. “The change,” notes the Telegraph, “will allow Facebook to build more complete profiles of its users - and target advertisements - using people's personal data from its social network and from Instagram.”

A second proposed change is limiting users’ ability to restrict who can email them. Described as “New tools for managing your Facebook Messages” in the letter, the Telegraph explains, “The social network also wants to loosen the restrictions on how members of the social network can contact other members using the Facebook email system, eliminating a setting for users to control who can contact them.”

The motivating factor is almost certainly an attempt by Facebook to maximize its advertising revenue potential. Sharing data with its affiliates will allow more precisely targeted advertising – which is popular with the ad agencies, and for which Facebook can charge a higher rate. And by further reducing possible restrictions on emails (remember that Facebook earlier this year arbitrarily changed users’ email addresses to Facebook addresses, taking more emails through its own servers), Facebook is now positioning itself as a rival to Google’s advertising model.

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