Facebook said Wednesday that it will consider combining the user data from recently-acquired Instagram with its own user data, and abolish the current process that requires a certain percentage of users to vote on any changes made to the social network’s terms of service, Reuters reported.
The combination of user data — which could make your Instagram photos fuel for Facebook’s geolocated advertising, or create a unified profile that’s difficult to separate — certainly creates privacy concerns for users, but makes sense as Facebook works to increase monetization and improve its ability to target advertising, which is a huge part of its business. Abolishing the user vote on changes reflects the remarkable growth in users the company has seen in the past few years, but again limits users’ ability to control what might happen to their data. Facebook first began the process in 2009, when it had about 175 million users (it now has over one billion).
Facebook, which closed the deal on its Instagram acquisition in September, could end up with the user data of more than 100 million registered Instagram users, and told Reuters that it would combine data from its divisions to “help provide, understand, and improve our services and their own services.”
Previously, changes to Facebook’s terms of service or policies needed a vote from 30 percent of users. But the vote was triggered if users created more than 7,000 public comments on a topic — which encouraged quantity rather than quality — and it was difficult to reach 30 percent participation on votes, Facebook explained in a blog post:
As a result of this review, we are proposing to restructure our site governance process. We deeply value the feedback we receive from you during our comment period. In the past, your substantive feedback has led to changes to the proposals we made. However, we found that the voting mechanism, which is triggered by a specific number of comments, actually resulted in a system that incentivized the quantity of comments over their quality. Therefore, we’re proposing to end the voting component of the process in favor of a system that leads to more meaningful feedback and engagement.
Obviously cognizant of user distrust at the company’s privacy policies and use of highly personal data, Facebook is planning an “Ask the Privacy Officer” feature, allowing users to submit privacy-related questions to Chief Privacy Officer of Policy, Erin Egan, and Egan will host webcasts to address privacy concerns.