Facebook and Your Privacy: What You Need to Know

Thinking about deleting your Facebook? You’re not alone; there’s been something of a mass exodus since Cambridge Analytica took over the headlines recently. The scandal highlights just how easy it is for your “private” data to be used and abused. In this case, 50 million Facebook users had their personal data culled in an effort to measure and influence political outcomes.

Users took a quiz designed by a Cambridge University researcher, except the results didn’t just give up that user’s details. Everyone who took the quiz unwittingly handed over their entire friend’s list as well.

Like so much other data, this information is very valuable, and despite the fact that it shouldn’t have been sold, it was.

It’s not the first time that major Facebook privacy concerns have been raised. Still, the fact that it happened during one of the most contentious presidential elections in American history isn’t lost on anyone.

Now, more people understand that it’s not necessarily all about what you post or willingly share. What you see and who gets access to you can be based on who you’re friends with, what apps you use, what apps they use, various permissions you never considered, and so on.

Image Source: cnbc.com

There’s even been an increasing number of people who swear that Facebook can hear them and target ads accordingly, although this is something that’s been firmly denied repeatedly.

While many would still like to believe that the ethos of Facebook as a company is community and connection, its true purpose is to collect data and advertise. We largely ignore this because we do get something out of it: real-time glimpses into the lives of people we want to remain close to, or get closer to.

After all, it’s terribly convenient to congratulate your old friend on their new baby over Facebook. The fact that you can still stay connected without any awkwardness, or guilt over lapses in phone calls and birthday cards, is pretty attractive.

Although many of our Facebook friends are really just mutual friends or mere acquaintances, there’s a good chance you’re growing or maintaining real connections there.

So, if you’re not ready to quit just yet, here are some privacy measures you should take.

Be Mindful of Apps

This one may surprise you. Can you say for certain how many apps (and which ones) have access to your Facebook data? To find out, navigate to the drop-down menu that comes from the arrow located at the upper right-hand corner of your screen. Select “Settings” from this menu, and then click on “Apps”, which appears on the left-side menu in desktop.

Image Source: zdnet.com

Here you’ll see all of the apps that have you logged in via Facebook. When you select an app, an editing pencil and an “x” will appear. Hit the “x” to deny that app access to your Facebook. This doesn’t mean they’ll lose what they’ve already gathered on you, but they won’t get any more.

As you will find, there are four boxes below the display of any apps that have access to your Facebook.

Image Source: facebook.com

If you don’t use your Facebook account to log onto other sites (where, most commonly, you’d do so to leave a comment), go to “Apps, Websites, and Plugins”, click “Edit” and disable it. Click “Edit” on “Apps Other Use” and uncheck any info you don’t want to share with apps.

Image Source: facebook.com

Leaving every box unchecked means that this info will not be used by any apps. This covers data about you that your friends might be sharing through their apps.

Perform a Privacy Checkup

Now for some basic maintenance on who can see what you share. In the upper right-hand corner, click the question mark. This is your Help button, where one of your main options is to perform a Privacy Checkup.

Image Source: facebook.com

Click that, and move through your posts, apps, and profile visibility. You’ll be able to make posts public, private for you only, friends only, visible to certain friends only, or visible to all friends except a select few of your choosing. The information in the Apps step can be used to verify that what you just changed when we focused on that area has taken effect.

During the final step, Profile, be sure you make information such as your email address and phone number private.

Image Source: facebook.com


Go back to the drop down menu from that upper right-hand arrow and select “Settings” again. From there, select “Ads” – it’s right underneath of the “Apps” selection you made earlier.

This is more or less what you’ll see:

Image Source: facebook.com

Under “Your interests” you may just see categories based on pages you’ve liked. For instance, if you liked the page of a certain TV show or musician, it’ll appear there. However, once you expand this portion, you can hover over or tap that “interest” to prevent it from being used to target you for advertising.

Next, go to “Advertisers you’ve interacted with” and select from the three or more subcategories to control the influence of advertisements which are based on your prior interactions with various advertisers.

Now click on “Your information”. In the “About you” section, you’ll find that you can toggle off what basic info advertisers can use to target you.

Image Source: facebook.com

Take a deep breath and click “Your categories”, which is right next to “About you”. Here you’ll find that Facebook has collected your political leanings, who you’re most likely to be friends with, whether or not you live close to your family, what kind of devices you use, and more. All of this is used to market products and services to you. Click or tap the “x” in the corner of each box to remove yourself from these categories.

Once you’ve taken care of that, continue moving through the ad settings. You can control whether or not your friends see that you’ve liked or commented on a certain ad or page, whether or not you want to see certain types of content, and decide whether or not you’ll allow your web activity to influence what ads you see.

In the end, you can always just deactivate your page. But be aware that it can take weeks for your data to be what we can consider “deleted” – because does the internet ever truly forget? In the meantime, pay scrupulous attention to who Facebook shares your data with, as well as what data you’re unknowingly permitting them to share.

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