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Facebook invites users to vote away voting rights, some privacy

Deadline of December 10 for ballots

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Voting has officially opened for users of Facebook to decide if they agree with the proposed changes Zuckerberg and his crew want to make to the site's terms and conditions.

On November 21, the company announced that it wanted to change its rules to get rid of the system of user voting and instead have a complaints page, which would then be selectively addressed by Facebook's chief privacy officer Erin Egan in a regular webcast.

Facebook also proposed changes to the site's policies on data sharing, enabling a larger selection of information to be shared so that advertisers can be sold more info, content can be more accurately personalized for the end user, and affiliates like Instagram can interlink better with user profiles.

These ideas raised a storm among privacy groups, with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) sending a joint letter to the company urging it to think again. The office of Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner – which has jurisdiction, as Facebook's European headquarters are on the Emerald Isle – also sought clarification on the changes.

"Based on your feedback and after consultation with our regulators, including the Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s Office, we’ve further clarified some of our proposals," said Elliot Schrage, Facebook's VP of communications, in a blog posting on Monday.

On the face of it, not much has changed with the updated proposals. The voting system will still be shut down and when it comes to information sharing with affiliates, Facebook's proposed changes are "standard in the industry," and "done in compliance with all applicable laws, and where additional consent of our users is required, we will obtain it."

Over the next week, over 30 per cent of Facebook's billion users must place their ballots – any less and the vote will be considered "advisory." Given that quorum in a vote has yet to be achieved by Facebook's diverse global user base, it looks likely that the new system will be decided upon at management's discretion.

The digital ballot boxes opened on Monday morning and voting will continue until December 10. The company is holding a webcast to explain the changes on Tuesday at 9:30am Pacific Time/5:30pm UT. ®

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