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Facebook under fire from privacy campaigners as more than a BILLION users are encouraged to vote on privacy changes
30% of users – more than 300 million users – must vote to have effectMost of those who have voted are against the changesFacebook insists that changes are 'housekeeping'
15:28 GMT, 5 December 2012
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg: his website now has more than a billion users, who are being asked to vote on a series of changes that the internet giant insists are 'housekeeping' ahead of new product launches
Facebook's one billion users are voting on changes to the internet giant's policy.
If you haven't already voted, you have until next Monday evening to register your views.
But if 30 per cent of users don't vote, all users will lose the ability to vote on any future changes.
Of those who have already voted, most are against the proposed changes.
Eliott Schrage, vice-president of communications, public policy and marketing, explained in a long post what the changes would mean.
The main changes are to the way Facebook can share your data with its partners, including the popular picture-sharing app, Instagram.
Facebook bought Instagram for about $1billion (621million) in April.
Facebook wants to be able to make changes to how it stores and shares information – including Likes and comments – with advertisers and anyone else it is affiliated with.
What worries privacy campaigners is the note from Facebook that this information can include your views on sensitive issues such as health, religion or politics.
However, the site's guidelines make clear that advertisers are prevented from 'running ads that assert or imply sensitive personal characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation'.
Facebook also wants to end the process by which users can vote on changes.
That is because of the explosive growth of the social networking platform.
When the system was launched, asking for 7,000 comments in a week on a change seemed reasonable.
Now, that threshold is easily reached, but getting 30 per cent of the users – more than 300million people – to vote is much less likely.
On previous occasions, voter turnout among users has nowhere near reached the level required.
In June, just 342,632 people participated in a vote on data use policy, while in April 2009, 665,654 votes were cast on a proposal at a time when the site had around 200million users.
That means noisy minority voices can have too much influence over Facebook policy.
Mobile advertising is an important move for Facebook as more users check in using their smartphones than their desktop computers
Schrage said 'Our goal in modifying our site governance process is to make sure that we receive feedback from you in the best, most productive way possible.'
Facebook also wants to change your ability to limit who can send you private messages.
That could mean spam from advertisers in your inbox.
Facebook said it couldn't comment on upcoming changes to the product.
HOW SHOULD YOU VOTE
Campaigners are urging Facebook users to vote to keep the existing documents.
Doing so would prevent the changes from going through.
However, a Facebook spokesman warned that many of the changes covered in the new documents come from its regulator in Ireland.
He said: 'If those could then be vetoed by the vote.. where would that leave us In violation of data protection laws.
'The changes are more than just a nice to have.
'We need to make them to stay compliant.'
After its lacklustre stock market float, Facebook has been keen to build its mobile advertising presence.
Until recently, those viewing the site via apps on their smartphones or tablets were seeing fewer ads, despite the fact that more posts were being made via mobile apps than from desktop computers.
The internet firm's third-quarter earnings showed that advertising revenues grew by 36 per cent on the same time last year to reach $1.08billion. Of that – $139million – came from adverts shown on mobile devices.
A Facebook spokesman stressed that the changes the internet giant wants to make are 'housekeeping' changes to prepare the way for new products to launch.