Facebook's new privacy cafes are a hollow apology following countless user data scandals.
Image: Facebook

The word privacy has been near-constantly linked to Facebook throughout the past several years. Unfortunately for the social media company and its users alike, the connection hasn’t been a positive one. Amid countless privacy scandals, Facebook can’t seem to respect its users enough to create real change.

So, a recent announcement from the company stating it will open several “privacy check-up cafés” in the U.K. came as quite the surprise. The move has irritated some users who wish Facebook would focus on actually fixing privacy concerns rather than performing these publicity stunts.

Free Coffee, No Privacy

In a typical Facebook-ish move, the company will try to make amends with a free cup of coffee. Several privacy cafés will pop-up around the U.K. for a limited time. No matter how good the coffee is though, it won’t be enough to placate more than two billion users who are angry about the treatment of their data.

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A large part of the reason why privacy is such a concern on the platform is due to confusing language and a tangled mess of a settings page. Due to these things, Facebook users have an impossibly difficult time customizing privacy settings for their account. This is no doubt purposeful on Facebook’s part to try and retain access to valuable user data. By technically giving users a way to opt-out of data collection (even if they can’t find it), Facebook narrowly avoids legal ramifications.

Now, the pop-up cafés will offer visitors a free beverage and a complimentary lesson on customizing these privacy settings.

Recently, a poll found that more than a fourth of Facebook users in London didn’t know how to do this on their own. It can be presumed that this is the case for users worldwide.

While it isn’t clear who will run the cafés, the tutorial certainly won’t be quick. Users must learn to sort through nested menus and unclear descriptions if they want to increase their privacy.

Hollow Promises

After Facebook’s countless transgressions to date, anyone believing that the social media giant values user privacy should probably rethink how much trust they put into big tech.

In 2016, the Cambridge Analytica scandal left millions of users exposed while playing a role in the U.S. presidential election. Most recently, reports state that Facebook allowed third-parties to transcribe private Messenger audio conversations to help train its AI systems.

After each break in trust, Facebook tends to offer empty apologizes without truly doing anything to fix the problem. The cafés, its newest attempt at recovery, are a new low for the company. In reality, the move is more of a publicity stunt than a step towards real change.

With Facebook showing no signs of turning things in the right direction, it may be inevitable that users start migrating away from the platform. Perhaps that would be for the best. In the meantime, the company should focus its time and resources on creating better user privacy and stop messing around with marketing schemes like the forthcoming privacy cafés.

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