Facebook hosted a pop-up event in New York City for 1 day only to teach people about privacy. Here's what it was like to visit

Meira Gebel/Business InsiderThe outside of Facebook’s one-day pop-up about privacy in New York City’s Bryant Park.
  • Facebook hosted a pop-up in New York City’s Bryant Park for one day only on December 13.
  • The pop-up aimed to educate users on how to manage their privacy settings and change what sort of advertisements are targeted at them.
  • This comes in the same year that Facebook lost the trust of consumers following revelations of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

On Thursday, Facebook opened a one-day-only pop-up in New York City’s Bryant Park.

The pop-up aimed to educate the average passerby on how to manage the site’s privacy settings – something the social media company believes not many users are aware of.

“We want to meet people where they are and give them the tools to protect themselves,” Erin Egan, Facebook’s chief privacy officer, told Business Insider at the pop-up.

During the holidays, Bryant Park is typically packed with tourists, small business holiday shops, and an ice skating rink. This is may be the reason why Facebook decided to have this privacy pop-up in this specific place: exposure.

Business Insider visited the pop-up late in the morning on Thursday, and spoke with some of the people visiting the booth.

Here’s what it was like.

The pop-up was a chic, white space that looked a little like a storage container, all decked out in a holiday theme.

Meira Gebel/Business Insider

Inside, Christmas music played. There were brochures on the “tips and tricks” to keep your Facebook account safe, and visitors could check out an interactive iPhone screen showing how users can manage the advertisements they see on the site.

An added bonus: hot chocolate, plates of Parisian patisserie, and fresh fruit.

Some people walked by and wondered what sort of thing Facebook was selling, since its pop-up was situated among businesses selling things like cosmetics and clothing.

Meira Gebel/Business Insider

Judy Stine, who is originally from Long Island but now living in Pennsylvania, told Business Insider that when she walked in, she was surprised.

Though she already knew how to manage her privacy settings, she said she learned how to adjust the advertisements and topics on her feed.

“I didn’t know you could do that!” said Stine. “I learned how to filter [advertisements] out, like stuff like alcohol and animal cruelty.”

That was exactly what Facebook said it was hoping visitors would get from the experience.

“We want ads to be meaningful,” Facebook spokeswoman Michelle Madara told Business Insider. According to Madara, many people who use Facebook do not know where privacy settings are located.

But some who visited the booth said they were well-versed in managing their privacy on Facebook.

Meira Gebel/Business Insider

That was the case for Janet Fabiano.

“I would hope people would know about their privacy settings,” said Fabiano from New Jersey, who walked out of the pop-up with a paper cup of hot cocoa in hand. “The news is always drumming it into your head.”

Fabiano, and her friend Linda Iancono, said they came to Facebook’s pop-up because they visited last year, when Facebook was showing off its virtual reality features.

“We come every year [to Bryant Park] and just decided to check it out,” said Iancono.

The sheer fact of having Facebook’s name on a pop-up store in one of the busiest foot traffic areas of the city is intriguing. But its effect remains to be seen.

Meira Gebel/Business Insider

Facebook has had a tough year on the privacy front. In March,Facebook announced that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm used by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, had been suspended from Facebook for its mishandling of user data.

Initially, reports indicated that 50 millions users had their personal information harvested by Cambridge Analytica without authorization, but that number later grew to 87 million users.

And then in September, Facebook announced that a security flaw in the site’s “View As” feature gave a hacker access to 29 million users’ accounts. The stolen data included a mix of highly sensitive personal information, like birth dates, recent “checked-in” locations, phone numbers, search history, and more.

So after a challenging year, the Bryant Park pop-up was likely intended to help win back some of the trust Facebook has lost among its users.

The booth in Bryant Park is the first in the US, but other pop-ups have taken place in Dubai, Dublin, London, and Cologne, Germany. Facebook didn’t specify whether or not more pop-ups like this will happen in other cities across the country.

Either way, it remains an experiment in how the tech giant can connect with users who can provide them with feedback, according to Egan. “There is no single way to reach people,” she said.

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