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Advocacy groups urge Facebook to withdraw proposed policy changes

A series of policy changes proposed by Facebook have drawn the ire of users and advocacy groups yet again.

The proposed updates to the terms of service would reportedly allow Facebook to share user data with Instagram, scrap users’ right to participate in site governance decisions, and loosen the social network’s private message system.

In a letter to Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg, the executive directors of the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy have alleged that "Facebook's proposed changes implicate the user privacy and terms of a recent settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.”

European authorities also said that Facebook must give European users the right to decide whether or not they want to grant Facebook permission to share their data with partners like Instagram.

Sharing information between Facebook and Instagram would conflict with the site’s existing Data Use Policy, the groups said. Under the terms of its agreement with the FTC, Facebook must give users “clear and prominent notice” and must receive “express consent” before sharing any private user data, which the company promised to abide by following its Instagram acquisition. But merging Facebook and Instagram data into a unified user profile, much like what Google has attempted to do with Google+, is a highly controversial move that will certainly lead to a lot of blowback.

Moreover, the elimination of a user voting program - in which proposed changes must be put to a vote when more than 7,000 comments are generated - “raises questions about Facebook’s willingness to take seriously the participation of Facebook users,” the groups said.

The social network also said last week that it plans to dump a setting that allows people to set options for who can send them messages, which the letter describes as having troubling privacy implications and as likely to result in increased spam.

Facebook has declined to comment on the letter, though a spokesperson said of the potential data-sharing with Instagram that “we will share information with our affiliates and vice versa, both to help improve our services and theirs, and to take advantage of storage efficiencies.”

The organisations have requested that the social network withdraw the proposed changes and will file a complaint with the US government if they do not receive a reply, according to the Los Angeles Times.