Last week in New York City’s Bryant Park, Facebook answered questions about privacy and data.
For only Dec. 13 Facebook planned to get between the festive crowds in Bryant Park, and drive some of those shoppers into its small pop-up—“It’s Your Facebook”. The purpose of the pop-up is to educate regular people about Facebook’s privacy settings and the ad experiences that users have when using the platform.
Facebook’s privacy pop-up predictably attracted swarms of journalists. The kiosk is meant to communicate that Facebook is taking concerns over privacy seriously. It was also, of course, an opportunity for the company to push its messaging around the nature of its business model. A friendly-looking sign pinned to a bulletin board helpfully displayed the perennial question: “Does Facebook sell my data?” “No, Facebook does not sell data to advertisers,” it answered, next to a cartoon of a padlock.
Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s VP of Global Marketing Solutions commented about the event,
One of the biggest learnings we had coming out of Cambridge Analytica was that we do have a tremendous amount of privacy controls for people, but we have not done nearly enough to make sure people understand where they are, how to access them and frankly how simple they are to use. That is not anyone’s fault, or the fault of the people that use our platforms. That is on us to do a much better job at communicating. That way, it’s not some technology company that sits in California and doesn’t have any human interaction.
The place makes it hard to tell what’s actually going on inside the space, unless you happen to read the plaque outside the front door with more detail about the pop-up as a first impression. Later on, there’s not much to see, but there are plenty of Facebook helpers planted inside. Because, Facebook wants people to be drawn into the space so that they can talk one-on-one with Facebook employees and ask them all their burning data and privacy questions. As Everson repeatedly stated, the space is all about putting a face to Facebook.
Facebook employees encourage people to do a “Privacy Checkup” on their Facebook accounts. That gives users a chance to see what their privacy settings are currently set to, learn how to control the ads they see and even what apps they are sharing data with -Spotify, Pinterest, Venmo and more- and how to delete any apps they don’t want their account connected to. These events also help Facebook get direct feedback from users to learn what they can do better in the future.
According to Mashabe, while leaving the event, attendees were asked to fill out a short survey asking how transparent they felt Facebook was with these privacy settings on its website. One question seemed to hint that maybe this one-day pop-up would be more than a one-off. Very good point.