Friday, April 17, 2009

Facebook Rocks the (Site Governance) Vote

When I logged into Facebook this afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised to see a call for the community to vote on revisions to the site's terms and conditions. Asking the community for feedback and doing something with that feedback is in the best interest of this or any online service (free or paid) - it shows a willingness to listen and be a partner in a positive user experience.

No doubt there will be some critics who will line up and take sides for and against any changes to this free service. It is already making the rounds in the online which naturally helps get the word out on the vote itself.

After reading the 'Response to Comments on Statement of Rights and Responsibilities,' I was interested in a few of the issues that originally questioned the actions of Facebook and how the site responded in the revised statement:
  • How will Facebook use, share, and store my content? Facebook needs the right to use, share, and store your content in order to provide Facebook to you and your friends. Our Privacy Policy explains what content we use, share, and store, and includes a number of examples (as do some of our responses to this section). In addition, your Privacy Settings give you the ability to direct and control how we use and share your content. 
  • Why doesn’t Facebook use one of the Creative Commons Licenses? In some ways the license grant in the Statement is more limited than the Creative Commons licenses. For example, the Creative Commons licenses are all perpetual. In addition, the Creative Commons licenses require attribution “in the manner specified by the author” and contain other restrictions (such as including Uniform Resource Identifiers) that we do not believe are feasible in a system with more than 175 million active registered users.
  • Why doesn’t Facebook audit every application? We unfortunately do not have the ability to control third-party applications, and cannot guarantee they are completely safe. However, if you feel that a particular application violates this Statement, please let us know by going to the application’s About page and clicking “Report Application.”
  • How can I limit Facebook’s use of my content in Social Ads? We provide a very transparent opt-out approach that allows you to easily tell us when you do not want to appear in Social Ads. You can do that by visiting this Privacy Setting.
Listening to Community = Good
These are just some of the things addressed by Facebook. At face-value this looks like a good move for Facebook. I am all for doing whatever you can to listen to the community (even if that community has around 200 million people.) The voting rules are interesting too:
This vote will be binding if 30% or more of all active users as of February 26, 2009, the day that the vote was announced, vote. An active user is one who has logged in to Facebook at least once in the last 30 days. Users who signed up for Facebook after February 26, 2009 are not eligible to vote. They are eligible to vote on any future change to Facebook’s site governance documents that is put to a vote.

If the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities is approved, all future changes will go through a process of notice and comment. As specified in the Statement, Facebook will hold a vote on any proposed change if at least 7,000 people submit comments. The vote will be advisory unless at least 30% of all active users participate. If turnout is 30% or more, the vote will be binding. [emphasis added]

Here's hoping more than 30% vote so it can be binding and not merely a suggestion. I hope users actually take the time to read the response to comments from Facebook and make an informed vote.

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