Facebook Privacy Rights Up For A Vote, Guaranteed To Lose

Choosing the president is a big deal. We all know that. After what seemed like an eternity of campaigning, finally, FINALLY, November came around and a whopping 121,745,725 Americans hit the polls and cast their vote. Not bad, right? Turnout could always be better, but after what seemed like a thousand years of campaigning, endless TV ads, a virtual takeover of the internet, and perhaps the most bitterly divided electorate in memory, we managed to get 121 million-odd people out to the polls to vote for the president of the United States.

Now we just need 300 million people to get out and vote … for Facebook. After they received one e-mail … about an issue they don’t care about … that was probably blocked by their spam filter. Totally doable!

As a recent Yahoo! News article explains, at issue is Facebook’s omnipresent privacy policy. As (not really) explained in the oh-so-visually-enthralling email Facebook recently sent out to users, one-third of Facebook’s users have until 8 p.m. GMT on Monday to vote on a new Facebook policy that would put an end to user votes altogether, leaving all site governance and policy up to a shadowy room of unknown figures, figures who would get to decide what to do with all the personal information you’ve so thoughtfully provided them. Personally, I picture it as containing Mark Zuckerberg, Mr. Monopoly, Skeletor and the dog from Air Bud, but that’s probably just me (“Sit, Air Bud! Bad invasion of privacy! Bad dog!”)

That one-third of the user base translates into about 300 million people, or, to put it in imaginable numbers, roughly the entire population of the United States. Think about that for a second – after more than a year of non-stop media blitz on something a lot of us actually care about, less than half the total population of the U.S. bothered to vote for President. How good are the odds that 300 million people – globally – are going to bother with this multi-step process? By clicking the tiny Site Governance Page in the e-mail …

The User Email, in all its simplistic glory.

You’re taken to the Facebook Patented ‘Wall of Text.’ If you can spot it, the link to the actual voting page is near the bottom …

It’s like a “Where’s Waldo” of sadness.

Click that and you’re taken to the actual voting page!

Now we’re getting somewhere!

Click “vote” and you’re taken to another page to do the actual voting. Let’s look at these choices: “Proposed Documents – The Proposed SRR and Data Use Policy” and “Existing Documents – The Current SRR and Data Use Policy.”

Are you now or have you ever been a member of Facebook?

“Right,” you’re thinking. “Let me just run off to law school real quick so I can know what that means.” Ha ha! Silly Facebook user! They explained this all to you back on the wall of text page!

Remember me?

I hope you’re up for some light reading. The “Proposed Statement of Rights and Responsibilities” is 4,477 words long and contains over two dozen individual links. The “Proposed Data Use Policy Redline” takes us to a .pdf coming in at a brisk 16 pages and 9,506 words.

All we need is 300 million people to understand all of this well enough to click the voting option that doesn’t sign away any expectation of privacy on Facebook for the rest of our lives. Oh, and if less than 300 million people vote, then this all becomes “advisory,” and Facebook will think of us fondly while they implement these new changes.

If all of this sounds ridiculously complex, it’s because that’s intentional. Once again, the powers-that-be at Facebook have shown us that they have absolutely no desire to protect any semblance of user privacy nor, as it would appear now, are they concerned that such trivial matters seem to bother the rest of us. Part of me hoped that some of these shenanigans would come to end once Facebook became a public company, but that does not seem to be the case. Whatever the business and financial implications of this move are, I’m sure they are profound. The intimate details of a billion people’s likes and dislikes are a marketer’s heaven and details, I’m sure, they’re offering Facebook a pretty penny for access to. Eliminating the ability of the user base to stop that is part of an obvious overall plan to ensure that profitability is never encumbered by things like ‘user opinion.’

It’s naive to think that people are going to abandon Facebook until it does anything short of conquer a small nation or executives start publicly killing small animals. It’s also ridiculous to think that the necessary additional 299,475,000 people (roughly, at time of writing) are going to vote in the next three days to stop this.

Going forward, we need to remember this: one point, Facebook users did have some say in the platform that so many of us base our social and, not uncommonly, business lives around. We need to remind ourselves that Zuckerberg & Co. are not doing this out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re doing this because there is a literal mountain of money to be made. It’s just that now, we can all see things as they actually are – Facebook does not care what we think, nor will the company let us stop it from climbing Mount Dollar, even if it has to trample on the rights and privacy of a billion people to do so.

If you’re curious, the vote choice that would (potentially) stop this is “Existing Documents.” It doesn’t really matter, though, unless you have 200 million people on your Friends list.