Vote ends on Facebook privacy changes, for good

Apathetic users mean vote falls far short of forcing Facebook to keep old rules

The user vote over Facebook's latest proposed privacy policy change is over and the results showed two things: Facebook overwhelming got the go-ahead to make its policy changes and it showed just how apathetic the site's users are about online privacy.

The vote, which ended Monday at 3 p.m. ET, showed 589,141 users opposed to the change and 79,731 in favor. At first glance, you'd think that means Facebook won't be able to move ahead. That's just not the case, though.

According to Facebook's standing rules, if more than 30% of all active registered users vote, the results are binding. If the voting turnout is less than 30%, the vote is nothing more than advisory. Since Facebook has more than 1 billion active users, more than 300 million people needed to vote for the decision to count.

As a result Facebook will be able to push through its policy change, which means users' comments will be less important and they'll no longer get a say on upcoming changes.

Facebook historically had a rule that any proposed policy changes that attracted 7,000 "substantive" comments would be put to a vote. That will no longer be the case.

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said voters themselves just showed the issue isn't a big deal to users.

"So they only got .07% of the total 1 billion user base to participate in the election," he added. "The vast majority of users don't think about this stuff much. The ones you hear from are a very tiny, but vocal, minority."

However, this doesn't mean Facebook can just do anything it wants, Olds noted.

"They're so big now that every change they make will be scrutinized by major media outlets, business publications, blogs, and of course, users, too," he said. "Their moves will get even more attention, both good and bad. So they're still going to be accountable for what they do privacy-wise; it just won't be by a formal user vote."

In an earliers interview, Olds had said it makes sense for Facebook to want to amend the way it pushes policy changes through. The voting policy was written when the site was much smaller.

For example, Olds noted that it only took 7,000 users to force a vote on a Facebook privacy issue. With more than 1 billion worldwide users, that is one thousandth of 1% of total users.

"If the same principle was applied to the United States, it would mean that 2,100 hotheads could force a nationwide vote on whatever issue has them all hot and bothered," he said.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is

See more by Sharon Gaudin on

Read more about social media in Computerworld's Social Media Topic Center.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Internet-based applications and servicessecuritysocial mediainternetprivacyFacebook

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Sharon Gaudin

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts