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Facebookers trigger vote to choke Zuck's data suck

50,000 punters sound off on privacy policy rewrite

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Facebook may be forced to make changes to its data use policy after campaigners helped drive enough complaints about the company's own proposed amendments to trigger a user vote on the matter.

Under Facebook's 'Statement of Rights and Responsibilities' the company is obliged to allow its users to vote on alternatives the company draws up if "more than 7,000 users comment" on its own proposals seeking to change those terms.

Earlier this month the social networking business, headed by billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, announced that it wanted to update its data use policy because the Irish data protection watchdog had asked it to "enhance" it in order "to be even more detailed about how [Facebook] uses information".

The Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) audited Facebook Ireland's privacy policies and practices late last year after it received complaints about the company's use of personal data from privacy group Europe-v-Facebook. Facebook Ireland has responsibility for all Facebook users outside of the USA and Canada.

The watchdog told Facebook to make a number of changes to the way it uses and stores its users' personal data and the way it explains its data use policy. It is due to commence another audit of Facebook in July in order to assess the company's efforts in meeting these recommendations.

Facebook's proposed changes to its data use policy include new explanations of its data deletion practices as well as the controls that users have over the sharing of information with third-party applications. However, 47,824 users commented on the plans with many posting opposition to the planned new terms and instead calling for the chance to vote on the "demands" outlined by Europe-v-Facebook.

The campaigners have said the planned changes would not address the concerns they have with Facebook's privacy practices and have instead outlined their own alternatives. These include requiring Facebook to "implement an 'Opt-In' instead of an 'Opt-Out' system for all data use and all features (eg, face recognition, applications or tags)."

"Right now, we are going through to see if there are things that make sense to change or that we want to respond to," Barry Schnitt, director of corporate communications and public policy at Facebook, has said, according to a report by CNET.

More than 30 per cent of "all active registered users as of the date of the notice" would have to vote on the terms of that notice in order for the vote to be "binding" on Facebook, according to the company's terms.

According to Facebook, the site - which floated on the stock market this month - had 901 million monthly active users at the end of March 2012.

Copyright © 2012, Out-Law.com

Out-Law.com is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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