Privacy Center

Designed with Kathy Matosich, Denise Sauerteig, Lee Jones, Becca Ozawa, and Abby Lee

Kian Lavi
Kian Lavi Design
Published in
5 min readMay 4, 2021

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tl;dr We designed a central place for people to learn, understand, and manage their privacy across the Meta (née Facebook) family of apps.

Context

In 2021, I led a herculean effort on Meta’s centralized Privacy team: to unite our Privacy Policy and build a single surface to proselytize privacy across the Facebook app, Instagram app, WhatsApp, Oculus, and more.

Update: as of January 2022, Privacy Center has launched!

Our pitch: a space for personalized privacy education, transparency and access to controls across Meta’s products, so people could take the privacy action that’s right for.

Our goal for Privacy Center was to distill Meta’s various educational moments around privacy into a single surface geared towards the people most recently experiencing a privacy concern.

The audience and problems

Privacy Center’s core users were to be mainstream, low-technical literacy users of the Facebook and Instagram apps, specifically the ones most concerned with and/or currently experiencing a problem with their privacy. Things like:

• “I’m freaked out by a creepy ad I saw, and I don’t know what to do”
• “I’m unsure about who can actually see my content or see information about me online”
• “I’m worried about my account being hacked or accessed without my consent”

Goals and measuring success

Unlike most products at Meta, our Privacy products couldn’t be growth-hacked, or easily quantifiable in usual metrics. Our goals a) were to reduce the prevalence and severity of tangible people problems people were reporting to us, and b) to increase people’s trust in Meta, better enabling our first outcome.

The way we planned to measure success was by running qualitative and quantitative surveys across our largest markets of low-tech literacy users, to understand the delta in their feelings of agency with controls we introduce and to see how much more willing they’d be to take action after visiting Privacy Center.

Our hope was to make a new space dedicated to solving the real problems people were having every day.

Our only constraints? That the existing ecosystem of privacy settings and transparency & controls was extremely fragmented, with education and controls themselves littered across multiple surfaces and across all the apps.

Wireframes showing different explorations for transparency and control within the Privacy Center experience

The product

We scoped the product down to both a native and web experience in the Facebook and Instagram apps, spanning both a Privacy Center and a new home for our redesigned Privacy Policy. I also worked with our leadership across the Privacy org to define a multi-year vision for how we could get the rest of the company’s apps and products on board.

While our vision for the product changed over the course of a year, the story stayed the same: how do we introduce the core concepts of data sharing, personalized ads, and cross-app linking in a way that made sense?

A big part of our effort was introducing the concept of a “Family of Apps” — Meta’s coined term for the thread that ran between the Facebook app, Instagram and WhatsApp, and more. This had been done before in Accounts Center (see below), but we never explicitly referenced how Meta, the company, worked as a whole.

The experience centered around introducing key privacy themes: what the Meta brand is, your account safety, managing content, and explaining how personalization worked. Very quickly, we iterated our way into creating Guides, a structure to combine education typically found in Help Center articles with the transparency and control our surfaces like Off-Facebook Activity were known for.

We adopted a Stories format to help tell simple stories about how things like personalized ads work.
Privacy Center was also the first space we built that got personalized our education to the person, with examples like what ads you had seen recently and how that ad ended up in your Instagram or Facebook News Feed.

Guides were the atomic unit of Privacy Center, giving us the room to explain ourselves, answer complex topics, and surface more traditional transparency & control or data management surfaces.

Our hope was to publish Guides for each of the headiest Meta problems people might face: visualizing personalized ads, explaining account safety and security, detailing how data is shared amongst the apps, and more.

Guides combined personalized transparency & controls with the more traditional help content we might otherwise surface

In reflection

After I left the team, the product ballooned to 60+ people and crossed over into our efforts to redesign Meta’s Privacy Policy to be more simple, straightforward, and human. It took almost a year before anything Privacy Center-related was launched, and our launch in 2022 was significantly smaller in scope than the lofty visions we already had.

While it was fascinating to see the work of 1 designer and a few cross-functional partners turn into a years worth of work for my teams, this project reinforced my own thesis that innovation isn’t born out of consensus. You need a small group of people dedicated to a big problem, who are willing to innovate and iterate their way out of a corner.

This project was a heavy lift and involved all layers of Meta’s leadership. In retrospect, we could’ve used more champions and fewer cooks in the kitchen, and I wish I had taken it upon myself to take more of a leadership role and delegate more work. It wasn’t until I brought on other designers to this project that we really had the time or energy to Do Good Work, and I wish I had learned that lesson earlier and less painfully.

Here’s some nice press the project has gotten already:

Next steps

My hope is that the Privacy Center opens up a new domain and a new problem space for us to explore addressing people’s privacy concerns, across all of the apps that we service.

Hopefully the public and the press receive this openly, and this can kickstart more good faith conversations around the power companies like Meta should or shouldn’t have.

Unlisted

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Kian Lavi
Kian Lavi Design

Designer and photographer, currently designing your privacy at Facebook.