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Opinion: Facebook’s Privacy Café: All froth, no substance

by Jack Moore Jack Moore

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  • Posted on Monday 2nd September, 2019

Facebook and privacy; These two have had quite a tumultuous relationship in recent years. Before the Cambridge Analytica scandal hit the front pages in March 2018, most users considered their profile being private to simply mean that they hadn’t added their Aunty as a friend. However, this all changed when it was revealed how the social media giant had been sharing the information they’d gathered on users and how this had been abused.

The past 18 months have been difficult to say the least for Facebook, with scandals creeping out of the woodwork at an alarming rate, impacting on public opinion and user confidence. However, it appears that Zuckerberg and co. are starting to try tackle some of the issues that users have regarding the privacy of the platform, in a surrounding not usually associated with social media; the humble café.

Facebook’s “Privacy Café” is a touring popup which will be stopping off in key cities across the UK to spread the word about Facebook’s Privacy Checkup tool (more about that later). Upon arrival the café was rather low key, with subtle branding on the exterior of the Shoreditch branch of the Attendant. Heading inside, the greeting was warm, and it was explained that all that was required for a free cappuccino was to have a quick chat about Facebook’s new tool, simple. The popup only actually took up a small corner of the café, with regular punters still able to enjoy their drinks in peace, whilst freebie hunters and Facebook privacy super fans could congregate in the corner.

The privacy tool itself doesn’t offer anything new to users, however it does make it a little easier to update your settings around three areas:

  • Who can see your posts
  • Who can see the information from your profile
  • Which apps have access to your data

The team also handed me a tips & tricks booklet which included ten tips to control your Facebook account:

  1. Protect your password
  2. Never share your log in details
  3. Make sure you use your real name
  4. Do not accept invitations from people you don’t know
  5. If you need to, you can block someone
  6. Your pictures are yours (Facebook doesn’t own them)
  7. Think before you share
  8. Report abusive content
  9. Never click on suspect links
  10. Use additional security features

In fairness to Facebook, the Privacy Checkup is quick and simple to use and makes it clear who can see your posts and profile information, as well as which apps you’ve used Facebook to log into. The top ten tips are also useful, if not a little obvious. But that’s it.

I mentioned in the first paragraph about what privacy on Facebook used to be – making sure your family didn’t see those embarrassing pictures of you during fresher’s week, but now it’s so much more. Privacy now means ensuring that foreign governments don’t illegally have access to your data allowing them to manipulate public opinion or protection from hackers hoping to mine your data without your knowledge. Clearly for Facebook, the Privacy Café, wasn’t hoping to tackle these issues but in ignoring this completely the PR stunt lost some credibility and genuineness.

I’m a huge fan of Facebook. When used in the right way it’s an unbelievable platform that allows people from across the world to connect with friends, brands and celebrities they love, discover new and exciting content and share their passions with likeminded individuals, but all Facebook seem to be doing with the Privacy Café is putting a small plaster over a wound that’s in desperate need of reconstructive surgery, then telling the patient that it’s all fine.

There’s no quick remedy for Facebook’s current ills, but being open, honest and transparent about all of the information which is held on each user and then allowing that person to make an informed decision on how they would like Facebook to use and share this data would be a fantastic start. Currently this info isn’t as easy to access as its Privacy Checkup tool and the questions I’d like to ask are why, and what steps are Facebook putting in place to improve user trust? Are we likely to see a Facebook butchers on the high street to deal with these much meatier issues?

For those of you wondering, the free cappuccino was great.