Meta (the company formerly known as Facebook) has announced a new version of its Privacy Center, which it says you can use to learn about how it collects and uses data and figure out how to navigate the myriad privacy and security controls available. It says the current version of the tool will have categories covering security, sharing, collection, data use, and ads. While it seems like a good tool to have around, it does feel more like Meta is putting the onus on users to make sure its apps work for them.
Meta says that this version of the Privacy Center (it’s had various things called privacy centers in the past) is currently available to “some people using Facebook on desktop” but that it “will roll it out to more people and apps in the coming months.” According to the blog post, there will be five categories for guides and controls that let you manage your security settings, who your posts are shared with, how Meta collects and uses your info, and what your advertising profile and preferences are.
Having controls in one place and explanations for them is useful but isn’t a replacement for good defaults
Having a centralized location for controls that otherwise might be spread out across a series of screens is nice, to be sure. That part of this project could genuinely be useful to users — when they get access to it — as the Facebook privacy settings can be unintuitive to many.
However, Facebook’s emphasis on education (its press release uses the word “learn” nine times and also includes phrases like “brush up”) really puts the responsibility for the systems it builds onto the user. If the privacy or security settings aren’t what most users would want or expect, Meta will be able to say, “Well, we did give you the tools to learn about them.” Plus, it’s always possible that you won’t like the info you find in the privacy center but won’t be able to do anything about it if there’s not actually a setting to change it.
According to Meta, if you’ve got the new Privacy Center, you’ll be able to access it in Settings > Privacy, but Meta says it’ll “add more ways to access it in places where you may have privacy concerns.” It also says it’ll continue to add more modules and controls to Privacy Center as needed — hopefully, there won’t be a test to see how much you’ve retained.