Facebook policy change questioned by Irish government

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Facebook may modify its plans to share user data with affiliates such as Instagram, thanks to pressure from government regulators in Ireland.

As The Telegraph reports , the Office of the Irish Data Protection Commissioner has asked Facebook to tweak its proposed policy changes, particularly one that lets the network freely share information with businesses that it owns, such as Instagram.

“We have sought and received clarifications on a number of aspects and have outlined our position in relation to what consent will be required for aspects of the policy,” a spokesman for the office told the Telegraph.

Facebook told the office that it understood its position, and expects to modify its proposed data use policy. Still, it's not clear exactly what changes Ireland's regulators have asked for, or how Facebook's proposal will change.

Affiliate data sharing is one of several policy changes that Facebook proposed last week. The social network also wants to make its private messaging service more like regular e-mail, eliminating the ability to control who can send messages to users, but still allowing users to block or filter incoming messages.

In the United States, advocacy groups have argued that the changes run counter to Facebook's privacy settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. Under the settlement, Facebook can't misrepresent its privacy policies to users, and must get express consent before sharing personal information with third parties.

In addition to the two privacy-related proposals, Facebook also wants to eliminate users' ability to vote on future changes. Under the current policy, any proposed changes must go to a vote if more than 7,000 users submit comments on the matter. The results of the vote, however, are only binding if more than 30 percent of all active users take part in the vote. Facebook says the current approach focuses too much on the quantity of comments, rather than quality.

Ironically, Facebook users will have a chance to vote on the newly-proposed policy changes, including the one that would take away their ability to vote in the future. A Facebook postoutlining the proposed changes already has roughly 20,000 comments, well above the 7,000 necessary to force a vote. However, the actual vote will be a longshot, given that 300 million users must exercise their right. In a previous vote, only 0.1 percent of users showed up.

For users who oppose the sharing of Instagram data and the changes to Facebook Messaging, their best hope might be government intervention.

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