Analysts debate effect of Facebook's policy changes on users

As Facebook pushes users out of the decision-making loop, what's it mean?

By , Computerworld |  Unified Communications, Facebook, privacy

However, Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said, the proposed change may not be as bad as it seems.

"Heavily involved Facebook users are sure to take umbrage with what seems, on the surface, to be a sharp slap in the face," Old said. "But I have to say that I think maybe Facebook has a point here. The voting policy was written when the site was much smaller. Now that they're pushing a billion members, the initial voting numbers don't make a lot of sense."

For example, Olds noted that it only takes 7,000 users to force a vote on a Facebook privacy issue. With more than 1 billion worldwide users, that is one thousandth of 1% of total users.

"If the same principle was applied to the United States, it would mean that 2,100 hotheads could force a nationwide vote on whatever issue has them all hot and bothered," he added. "Now here's where it gets even more absurd. In order for the vote to count, more than 30% of all users have to participate in the balloting. With Facebook, that means 300 million or so votes would have to be tallied in order for results to be valid."

Brad Shimmin, an analyst with Current Analysis, said users will have to get used to the idea that Facebook has to please shareholders as well as them. This move, he said, is part of the maturing relationship between the company and its users.

"Now that Facebook is a publicly traded company, it must split its attention between investors and users, two parties that don't always share the same objectives," Shimmin said. "So I'm not surprised to hear that Facebook's pulling back from its former, less formal, stance on revising privacy policies. What users often want, which is complete freedom of speech and ownership of content, stand at odds with what Facebook needs in order to attract advertisers and investors."

He added that Facebook, in the past, hasn't significantly altered its privacy course based on user feedback, and isn't likely to this time either.

"I think, if anything, it's a wakeup call to the Facebook user base, alerting them to the fact that they are ultimately guests of Facebook, and therefore Facebook has the right to set the rules in its own house," he said.

Olds agreed that whether or not users have a right to vote isn't a big deal. There are other ways for users to show their displeasure that would make Facebook take notice.

"Facebook is large enough now that any move they make gets lots of scrutiny," he said. "I think the bad press associated with Facebook making a bad privacy protection move is much more powerful than the results of a vote."

Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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