Facebook gives you another way to gripe about privacy

The social network lets you direct your privacy concerns to its chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, through an "Ask Erin" app.

Screenshot by Donna Tam/CNET

Unhappy with Facebook privacy settings? There's an app for that, according to Facebook.

The social network has launched a new app that lets users send privacy concerns and questions to Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan.

The "Ask Erin" app -- essentially a comment form on its "Facebook and Privacy" page -- went live last night, but Egan officially unveiled it at a data privacy event in Washington, D.C., this morning. Egan is one of two chief privacy officers at Facebook. She covers policy while CPO Michael Richter focuses on the actual features Facebook provides.

Facebook is constantly reworking its privacy settings in hopes of appeasing its users, but people are still confused by its array of settings. It removed its voting system in December due to a lack of active voters, but said it would come up with another way to let users voice their concerns. So here it is -- gripe away to Egan.

She won't answer every question, Facebook said, but the ones she will answer will be featured in a series of posts within the app. Any questions pertaining to a specific account should be directed at the Help Center still, according to Facebook.

To get things started, Egan answered three of the most common Facebook questions in a blog post today:

How does Facebook think about privacy when building its products? Egan wrote that Facebook focuses on privacy at every step in its development process. That includes employing privacy product managers and consulting with experts and consumer advocates. "We've built a comprehensive privacy program that helps us take a systematic approach to privacy," she wrote. "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."

How do you personally use Facebook's privacy settings to share? To answer this question, Egan broke down how she uses Facebook's post-by-post settings to share to specific audiences, including the "only me" setting to save things her kids said or photos she doesn't want anyone else to see. She also uses Facebook lists, a little-known feature that allows people to put friends into categories, allowing the user to share to different groups (think Google+ circles).

Does Facebook sell my private information to advertisers? Ah, the question that never gets old. "I get asked this question a lot and the answer is no," Egan wrote. She explained how Facebook uses your information to place ads. Advertisers pay Facebook to place those ads. "We use the things you do and share on Facebook, including demographics, likes and interests to show ads that are more relevant to you," she wrote.

Got a message for Facebook's CPO? Fill out the form here.

 

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