Facebook is convening a massive vote for the entirety of its user base. But Facebook is not exactly putting this information front and center on the site itself: No notifications when a user logs in, no posts to every user's wall, and nary a mention of the policy vote on Facebook's official blog.
So what, er, are people voting on?
Two elements: proposed changes to Facebook's official "Statement of Rights and Responsibilities" and the social network's "Data Use Policy," which all sounds like big and important stuff until you read Facebook's disclaimer regarding the second site-wide election in the social network's history.
"The vast majority of the proposed changes represent additional explanations of current practices rather than substantive changes in how we use your data," describes Facebook.
In other words, it's not as if the vote is going to trigger substantial changes to Facebook's policies - or the way the site works - in the near future.
In fact, in order for the vote to have any binding effect on Facebook's operations, 30 per cent of the social network's total user base - or approximately 270 million people - will need to participate in the election itself. If fewer users than that cast a vote either for or against the proposed changes, Facebook will consider the results of the "election" in an advisory role. If more than 30 per cent of Facebook's user base casts a vote, the changes will be binding.
Got it? Oh, yeah - the voting ends at 9 am PDT on Friday, June 8. You only get one chance to vote, too. Once you've voted, you cannot change your vote. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
As for what Facebook's asking you to vote on, Facebook's updated documents clarify the information that the social network will always post publicly on your behalf - elements like your gender, cover photos, and your profile picture, to name a few - in addition to what others on the network can post about you, what information Facebook can collect from you when you use it, and how Facebook ultimately uses this treasure trove of information.
Facebook's also highlighting its data retention policy: Namely, that the social network, "will retain data for as long as necessary to provide services to users and others. This broader commitment applies to all data we collect and receive about you, including information from advertisers."
Other proposed changes (clarifications) include bits about how people can find you (or information about you) via Facebook; how social plugins, apps, and third-party websites all intermix with your information and privacy; how personalized advertising works on Facebook's site; and a host of other miscellaneous, "need to know" entries, including information on how to contact Facebook for questions or complaints about its Data Use Policy.
That last part is something that the backers of "Europe v. Facebook" will surely take note of - the group of activists who wants to see Facebook put more material policy changes up to a vote (like an opt-in system for all data use and features) instead of mere clarifications.