Facebook’s Carolyn Everson: Privacy is ‘the foundation of our company’

In 2016, Facebook launched a pop-up store in Bryant Park featuring Samsung Gear VR headsets to introduce holiday shoppers to virtual reality. This holiday season, Facebook is focusing on something a bit more real world: privacy. Not unlike Apple’s Genius Bar, Facebook representatives will help any passerby with questions they have about Facebook on Dec. 13 in Bryant Park’s holiday market.

Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vp of marketing solutions, shared why they’re invested in the pop-up and what her message to marketers has been this year after so many scandals. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Why are you launching this pop-up?
We learned a lot of lessons post Cambridge Analytica, but one of the most important ones is that we do have a tremendous amount of tools for consumers to control those privacy settings and yet except most consumers, or many consumers don’t know how to use them, or we have not yet done all we can do to make sure that people are comfortable with our privacy checkup. We care deeply, as deep as a company can care about privacy. It’s the foundation of our company, and we want people to know that we care. We want them to use the tools that we built and know how serious we are about it.

So you have these conversations every day with advertisers. What’s your message to advertisers these days when it comes to post-Cambridge Analytica and also other instances where advertisers feel distrust?
I can look every marketer straight in the eye — I have to, I’ve known many of these people for 25 years — and say I really believe in the steps that we’re taking and how seriously we’re taking it and the enormity of our responsibility. That does not mean we’re going to get everything right, at all. The enormity of the challenges of having 2.5 billion people on a platform. It’s not going to be perfect, but I have the utmost confidence that Mark [Zuckerberg] and Sheryl [Sandberg] and all of us are taking this more seriously than everything we’ve had over my last eight years. That’s my main message, and that’s a very human message.

But like you said, understanding and teaching Facebook users privacy isn’t new to Facebook. You launched the privacy dinosaur years ago, but clearly, not everyone’s listened. So what’s next, and what’s your responsibility in emphasizing it?
I think about this a lot. Let’s take ourselves out of the Facebook privacy conversation for a moment. What do we do when we talk about marketers? If you’re at any of the large companies, small businesses, you need to have reach and frequency. You need to reach a lot of people and deliver your message multiple times before it sinks in, and depending on what your message is, there are all sorts of studies that people need to see it three times or seven times, but reach and frequency, that’s marketing 101. We have to do the same thing around privacy. We have to reach as many as our people as possible with many, multiple messages.


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