Facebook plans to integrate user data with Instagram; other changes on the way

A new update from Facebook will allow easier ways to email other members of the network as well as an integration of data between Instagram and the social network.

Some other changes are also coming up including the proposed scraping of an old process that allows Facebook members to vote for changes it s terms of services and policies.

The most popular social network in the world said that it may allow sharing of data between its own service and other affiliates or businesses that Facebook acquired to “help provide, understand, and improve our services and their own services.”

One such service is Instagram, a photo-sharing service on smartphones that the networking site bought in October for about $715 million.

Facebook’s recent move is similar to Google’s when it integrated user’s personal information from its other products and services like email, search, and Google+. Google initiated the move last January hoping to provide a more customized user experience.

However, regulators and some privacy advocates were not impressed and raised some concerns saying that such move is an act of invading people’s privacy. A 36-strong group composed of United States attorney generals  sent a letter to Google, warning the tech giant that putting all information in one basket put people at greater risk from identity thief and hacking.

Facebook’s email system will also receive an overhaul to accommodate the new plan to ease up how members of the network can interact with each other.

The company says it’s planning to remove a setting that gives users control who can contact them. It will be replaced with a new set of filters to manage incoming messages.

When asked if the new changes to the email system will not expose users to more spam and unwanted messages, Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes commented that  the company will monitor user interaction to improve user experience.

“We are working on updates to Facebook Messages and have made this change in our Data Use Policy in order to allow for improvements to the product,” he said.

The changes to some features of Facebook come at a time when the 1-billion-member site is having some challenging times securing positive revenue growth. Facebook gets most of its revenue from ads on its site.

Facebook members can see and comment on the proposed changes in the next seven days. Under the current voting system, if proposed changes will get more than 7,000 public comments, the company’s terms of service will automatically trigger 1 vote by users to approve them. However, the vote will only be given weight if a minimum of 30 percent of the total users join, and that two prior votes did not reach such threshold before.

Such system, according to Facebook, is no longer working though. Facebook will remove it after realizing that it has not worked the way it was intended to work. The company said that the system is no longer applicable to its current situation as a big publicly traded company answerable to various regulatory boards.

“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,” said Elliot Schrage, the company’s vice president of communications, public policy and marketing.

Facebook will provide other forms of feedback system instead of the voting mechanism. There will be an “Ask the Chief Privacy Officer” forum where users can ask questions on  its website. There will also be webcasts about security, privacy, and safety.

Online companies including Facebook and Google have been subjected to ever increasing scrutiny and enforcement from regulators and privacy advocates as they try to combine user information in one place.

Last April, Facebook settled a case filed against it after it was accused of deceiving consumers and forcing them to share more personal information than it was intended. The settlement orders Facebook to get explicit user consent to certain changes to its privacy settings; and it will be under independent audits in the next 20 years.

source: reuters

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