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The Privacy Advisor | Facebook announces privacy education revamp Related reading: Using big data to fight Zika




Likely, you’ve seen Facebook's Privacy Basics. As a member of the privacy profession, you’ve no doubt explored the ways in which you can adjust your privacy settings. Maybe you’ve even met the Facebook privacy dinosaur.

The general public? They may be less aware of their options.

Today, however, Facebook launches a new and improved Privacy Basics, and it will be much more difficult to miss.

“The old way of thinking,” said Facebook Deputy Chief Privacy Officer Rob Sherman, “is having a really detailed privacy policy and trying to do everything you need to do to inform the public in that regard, but for us that’s not the best way to empower people. … With Privacy Basics, we want to make sure that people have the experience they want.”

Maybe the biggest change for Privacy Basics is that it’s now optimized for the mobile experience. Of Facebook’s 1.79 billion active users (as of September 2016), 1.66 billion access the platform on mobile devices. 

“The new site is really a response to feedback,” Sherman emphasized. The company not only looked at the way users actually engaged with privacy information on Facebook, but also conducted focus groups and surveys and engaged with privacy experts at a range of organizations around the globe. “We think it’s important,” said Sherman, “for us to do that. We could make gut-instinct choices, but the more we see how people actually use [the privacy information Facebook provides], the more responsible we are.”

The company has even taken into account desires that regulators have for what Facebook should be communicating. In fact, as part of the rollout, Facebook is partnering with a number of U.S. attorneys general, who will also be issuing information about managing privacy online via Facebook videos.

One of the other big pushes is around making the information more global. The new Privacy Basics comes with 32 interactive guides in 44 languages.

“When people engage with Facebook around privacy, it’s usually, ‘How do I control who sees what I post? How do I block people?’,” said Sherman. “The idea here is, in a very accessible way, to walk people through what they need to know and how they can control it.”

Encouraging people to use Privacy Check-Up will be a more prominent part of the Facebook experience, along with daily dialog boxes, and outreach that’s customized to the way that individuals actually use Facebook. If a user posts publicly a lot, they’ll be asked right as they post if they understand what they’re doing.

“If it’s a job change they’re posting, or they’ve tagged someone in a photo,” said Sherman, “we’ll highlight Privacy Basics guides specifically addressing issues there.” They’ve also increased the places where you can access Privacy Basics and given it its own URL, so it’s more likely to come up quickly in searches.

Finally, they’ve added a great deal more support for two-factor authentication, including support now for the use of a security key, such as a USB-based hardware device that must be plugged in to the device on which a user is accessing Facebook. “We’re the first major company to support security keys on mobile,” Sherman said.

How does Facebook’s privacy team get all this done, though? With the translations, videos, and graphic design elements that must be in place to execute this kind of public outreach?

“One thing we think is important is that privacy is cross-functional,” said Sherman, “so from the very beginning the privacy decisions that we make include people who spend their whole days on privacy, but also people from lots of other different parts of the organization, including designers, marketing people, and engineers who are involved in the way that we make privacy decisions. Even in orientation, we tell people that privacy is everyone’s responsibility. It’s a company-level responsibility for everyone to handle information in an appropriate way. And privacy is part of the product launch process for Facebook, so as soon as we think about a product to launch, privacy is part of that considerations.”

“Making privacy part of the decision-making process is important,” Sherman continued, “because it makes people accountable. Everyone is responsible. And it’s important to the success of our products. … When people are in control of their information, they’re more comfortable with the way they use Facebook. … One thing we’ve tried to do is send that message internally: That privacy is connected to the success of the features that we offer.”

Editor's note: This article was edited to reflect that attorneys general are posting recorded videos, not using "Facebook Live."


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