Facebook says the result of the vote will be binding if at least 30 percent of active users participate, and "advisory" if that threshold isn't met. But rather than earning praise for turning to user-friendly bylaws for its so-called data use policy, the company has set off a new round of criticism about its alleged disdain for user privacy.
According to Schrems, the dossier revealed that Facebook was violating European law.
When Facebook announced the proposed changes last month, it said that if it received more than 7,000 substantive comments on them, it would hold a referendum. More than 40,000 comments came in, thanks largely to a campaign by the nonprofit that Schrems runs, Europe v Facebook. The nonprofit has amassed a significant following on social media, including more than 5,200 "likes" on Facebook itself, but the biggest influx of signatures came after Schrems appeared on a popular German television show.
Although the vote could be seen as a win for privacy advocates, Schrems described it as a sham.
Schrems said that in its handling of the vote, Facebook effectively "hid the polling center." The voting, he explained, is not prominently featured on the site. The company also demanded that huge numbers of users comment on its proposed changes in order to trigger a vote, but was then critical of the mass-organizing tactics that Europe v Facebook used to turn out the comments, he said.
Facebook defended its efforts to elicit user feedback.
"To promote the vote, Facebook has served nearly a billion impressions to users, including mobile-only users, and will continue to do so. Once someone votes they can choose to tell their friends they did so in their friends' News Feeds," a representative wrote in an email.
U.S.-based privacy advocate David Jacobs, the consumer protection counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), was also dismissive of the referendum.
Sign up for MIS Asia eNewsletters.