Facebook policy changes come under fire

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Two US privacy groups are calling on Facebook to scrap its plans to do away with user votes on policy changes.

Until now, users have been able to vote on any proposed change to the site that gets more than 7,000 comments. If more than 30 percent vote against, the amendment's scrapped.

But Facebook last week announced plans to get rid of the user voting system, saying that it has become just too unwieldy. With the site now so popular, 7,000 comments is just too easy to achieve, and the quantity of comments gets greater weight than their quality.

But this arguments doesn't cut much ice with the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD). They've written to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, saying that the changes raise privacy risks for users and may be illegal.

"Although Facebook's existing mechanism set an unreasonably high participation threshold, scrapping the mechanism altogether raises questions about Facebook's willingness to take seriously the participation of Facebook users," reads their letter.

Facebook has also said that it plans to get rid of the 'Who can send you messages' mechanism, and start sharing information with its affiliate companies - most notably Instagram. And the two privacy groups don't like this much either.

"By removing users' ability to prevent strangers from sending unwanted messages, the proposed changes are likely to increase the amount of spam that users receive. Facilitating spam violates users' privacy and security, as many Facebook scams are accomplished through the messaging feature," they say.

"Furthermore, Facebook's decision to combine personal information from Facebook and Instagram raises privacy issues."

The groups point out that a similar move by Google earlier this year prompted widespread objections from regulatory authorities as well as privacy organizations.

Indeed, the European Union is already calling on Facebook to clarify the changes.