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Facebook sets up holiday pop-up shop in New York to inform users about privacy concerns



Facebook's one-day privacy pop-up shop sits inside New York City's Bryant Park.
Facebook’s one-day privacy pop-up shop sits inside New York City’s Bryant Park.

Image: matt binder / mashable

From the scandal to other issues, 2018 hasn’t been such a banner year for Facebook when it comes to its users’ private data.

Facebook undoubtedly realizes this and would like to get back in its users’ good graces. So, on Thursday, in Manhattan’s Bryant Park, Facebook set up its own pop-up shop. While the temporary IRL Facebook location was filled with holiday-themed directions, its true purpose was to spread tidings of comfort and joy via educating New Yorkers on the social network’s privacy setting options.

Facebook's Bryant Park pop-up mixed holiday cheer with privacy setting education.

Facebook’s Bryant Park pop-up mixed holiday cheer with privacy setting education.

Image: matt binder / mashable

Staff working Facebook’s one-day privacy event greeted New York residents and tourists inside a 10×30 ft. trailer located off Bryant Park’s 40th St. entrance. The Facebook pop-up was a bit empty around 2:30pm ET, but there was a constant flow of people. One Facebook employee mentioned how there was a line to enter when the event opened at 11am. There was still a few hours left for the one day pop-up too, as it remained open until 9pm.

Alongside holiday lights and Christmas decorations, signs filled the walls with slogans like “People over Pixels” and TV screens walking visitors through a Facebook Privacy Checkup. One side of the trailer was dedicated to signage on Facebook ad settings and informing visitors that the social network does not sell their data to advertisers.

Facebook served up hot cocoa, complete with a Facebook 'F' logo shaped marshmallow.

Facebook served up hot cocoa, complete with a Facebook ‘F’ logo shaped marshmallow.

Image: matt binder / mashable

Free hot chocolate, topped with a Facebook logo-shaped marshmallow, was handed out to all who entered the pop-up. Facebook “like” and other reaction pins were free for the taking as well.

Nearly every visitor inside the trailer was engaging with a Facebook staffer. One person working the event mentioned how most of those visiting weren’t aware of these privacy settings and had questions concerning the different stories about Facebook they had heard in the news.

Facebook staffers walked visitors through their privacy settings.

Facebook staffers walked visitors through their privacy settings.

Image: Matt Binder / mashable

The Privacy Checkup seemed to be the main feature for the Facebook event. A Facebook employee walked me through setting it up. It’s very simple: Open the Facebook app and click the hamburger icon on the lower right-hand side, which takes you to the menu. Click Settings & Privacy, then privacy shortcuts, followed by “Review a few important privacy settings” under Privacy. Finally, you’ll be greeted with a message saying “Let’s start your Privacy Checkup.” Phew. 

Facebook’s Privacy Checkup is a three-step process. First, it shows you how you can target  friends and followers for your posts and asks you to set the audience for your next post. Next, it shows you your personal information, such as email addresses, phone numbers, addresses, education, and employment history and asks you to set which audience this information is visible to for each. Finally, the Privacy Checkup shows you which apps and websites you’ve used Facebook to log in to. However, this last step didn’t work at the pop-up shop, nor has it worked hours later back at the office.

It’s clear that this privacy pop-up is a PR play in order to help Facebook smooth over its image with the public after its tumultuous year. However, while one shouldn’t give credit to Facebook for a one-day pop-up in response to its many stumbles, maybe this is a step in the right direction for the social media company. It would be nice if Facebook prioritized making those privacy setting options easier to access and much more visible to the average user. But, stepping out into the real world with actual friendly human staff members personally taking you every step of the configurations seemed to really help the folks who attended.

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. It may not a bad idea. 

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