Friday 13th September 2019


Facebook’s Privacy Check cafes pop up around the UK

Last week I attended one of Facebook’s pop-up privacy cafés in Edinburgh. Edinburgh was one of five cities alongside London, Manchester, Brighton and Cardiff to host this two-day event. The purpose of the event was to give users a privacy check-up and help them to personalise their privacy settings. According to research published by Facebook, 22% of UK social media users do not know how to customise their privacy settings on any platform. Only half of those people knew how to customise privacy settings on Facebook specifically, leading to the pop-up cafés.

Tucked away on a pretty side street in central Edinburgh, the Brew Lab coffee house had been rebranded as the Facebook Café. I was greeted warmly and given a complimentary hot drink. There were a few brand ambassadors floating about the café, one of whom I sat down with. I was taken through the privacy check-up process on her phone, rather than mine (this was to avoid users having to show their Facebook information to the ambassadors). The three-stage process is called a ‘Privacy Check-up’ on the app. It checks privacy settings of posts, profile information and connected apps/websites and was completed in less than a couple of minutes. After the check-up finished I was given a ‘Tips & Tricks’ leaflet, which gave some simple Facebook privacy tips as well a reminder of the privacy checking process.


This was the extent to which the ambassadors were trained to help, however luckily there was a tech expert on site to help answer further questions. Although not employed directly by Facebook, they were able to tell me in more detail about how to ensure my Facebook privacy settings were in line with what I desired. I was shown around and encouraged to investigate further into my settings tab. I found out this is where you can download an entire archive with all your Facebook data. Here you can also find the Facebook Data policy, which contains everything you need to know about how Facebook keeps your information private.

Whilst the event did exactly what it said it would and felt accessible to Facebook users of all levels of tech expertise, the advice it could give was very specific to the process that the ambassadors were trained in. In the future it would be great to see Facebook put on more advanced events with tech experts directly from Facebook. Hopefully these experts would be able to answer more general questions about privacy as well as helping with privacy issues on platforms in the wider Facebook group such as Instagram and Whatsapp.

My top 3 Facebook privacy tips from the day:

  1. Do the Facebook privacy check-up. It only takes a couple of minutes and is a quick and effective way to check and change your current settings.
  2. Make sure you have ‘Review posts before appearing on timeline’ turned on. This means that posts and photos will not appear on your timeline until you have approved them, giving you control over what appears on your feed.
  3. Take time to familiarise yourself with the settings feature. There are lots of ways in which you can edit your privacy that aren’t included in the privacy check-up, and this is where to find them. Here you can find your archive, which you can view or download. This will keep you informed on what data Facebook holds and enable you to be more aware of what you are sharing with them. If you have done this already a couple of years ago, it might be worth revisiting it since Facebook frequently updates the ways in which users can edit their privacy.

Since Facebook’s launch in 2004, Facebook has become a central part in our social interactions. Despite last year’s Cambridge Analytica data scandal, it is clear that Facebook is here to stay. It is encouraging to see that Facebook is taking measures to alleviate public anxieties around privacy and is being more transparent about how it uses your data.

Sophie Clark

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