Facebook Launches Ask Our Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) Segment For Getting Answers Through To Users

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In the “Ask Our CPO” series, Facebook ask people to submit questions they have about privacy. In this first edition, Erin Egan, our Chief Privacy Officer of Policy, explains why we created this series and answers some questions she receives frequently about privacy.

Facebook, understands that you’ll want to share on Facebook only if you trust us to protect the privacy and security of your information. They also understand that issues about privacy can be complex given the fast-moving nature of technology and that you have questions about privacy. So here is statement below by the CPO

As Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer of Policy, I’m responsible for working with our teams at Facebook to be sure that we build our products with your privacy in mind.  We also work hard to communicate with you – through our Data Use Policy, our Help Center, and in our products – about how we use your information and how you can control this use.

To help continue this conversation, we created this Ask Our CPO feature, which will enable you to send us your questions, concerns, and feedback about privacy — and give us the opportunity to share with you how we think about privacy. We hope this feature will serve as a regular forum where we can have a direct conversation about privacy.

Go to the Ask Our CPO application to send me questions for our next note. I’ll answer some of the questions we receive in each note. For instance, we recently launched Graph Search. As you learn more about this feature, we hope you will use this forum as a place to ask us any questions you may have. In the meantime, I wanted to use this as an opportunity to respond to some privacy questions I get asked on a regular basis.

(To protect your privacy, we won’t answer questions here that are specific to your account.  For those questions, please check our Help Center.)

How does Facebook think about privacy when building its products?

We think about and work on privacy around the clock here at Facebook and we incorporate it into every stage of our product development. At Facebook we have two Chief Privacy Officers – I focus on policy, and my colleague Michael Richter focuses on product. But everyone at Facebook is responsible for privacy, and we work closely with teams across the company to analyze the privacy implications of every product we build from the start of product development through launch.

We’ve built a comprehensive privacy program that helps us take a systematic approach to privacy.  For example, each week a cross-functional team of senior representatives from teams across the company (including product, engineering, policy, legal, and marketing) meet to review our products while they are in development and before they launch, and to manage our overall practices around privacy.  We also have a team of privacy product managers who work with product teams – and with professionals from our legal and policy groups – to think about our products from a privacy perspective at the very start. We also provide privacy trainings to our employees and consult with independent privacy experts and consumer advocates to be sure that we can share the best thinking about privacy with the people who build Facebook.

How do you personally use Facebook’s privacy settings to share?

One of the great things about Facebook is the granular controls that we offer, like audience selectors, so that as you’re posting something, you can make a decision about who should see that specific post. I use these controls regularly for things that I post on my timeline. 

For example, I sometimes use the “only me” privacy setting when I’m on the go to keep photos or remember things that my kids have said.  I can go back and see the “only me” posts on my timeline later, and change the audience for them if I want to share something more broadly, but they’re not shared with anyone else when I first post.

I also really like using Facebook lists, which let me split up my friends into groups and share certain information with specific lists.  For example, sometimes when I’m posting about an event that we are holding at Facebook, I’ll post that information to the list of my friends who work here.

At Facebook, we understand that different people have different privacy preferences: some people want to share everything with everyone, some want to share far less and with a small audience, and most fall somewhere in between.  That’s why these tools provide such meaningful control over how you use and experience Facebook.  You can learn more about these and other controls, including new tools we announced last month, in our Help Center in the Basic Privacy Settings & Tools section.

Does Facebook sell my private information to advertisers?

I get asked this question a lot and the answer is no. Facebook, like many companies on the web, is able to keep our service free by including advertisements. But we don’t make money by selling your private information to third parties. Instead, we support our service by showing you relevant ads that help you discover products and services that are interesting to you. We use the things you do and share on Facebook, including demographics, likes and interests to show ads that are more relevant to you.

Here’s an example of how this works. Let’s say a pizza place opens in your neighborhood. The owner of the restaurant creates an ad to get people to come in to try a free slice. The owner sends the ad to Facebook and describes who should see it: for example, people who live in the same or nearby zip code and like pizza or Italian food.  Facebook shows you the ad if you live in that area and like that kind of food. We may show the advertiser aggregate statistics about who saw the ad – for example, that 2,000 people saw the ad – but we don’t share private information about you specifically.


Samir Saleem

An innovative and dynamic marketing expert having worked for both local and multinational organisations,having expertise in leading diverse assignments on devising digital/social media marketing strategies, promotions, public relations and business development. As an experienced social media strategist and business analyst, he manages several brands via his 2nd Startup Hybrid Signals (www.hybridsignals.com) Samir is an award winning technology and social media blogger and can be reached at samzbest@gmail.com

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