The recent Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal has opened a huge can of worms surrounding data privacy. For the average Facebook user, like myself, it has thrown up a number of questions:

  1. What data of mine does Facebook store and share with third parties?
  2. Am I comfortable with my online activity being constantly tracked and shared?
  3. Is it time to delete my account because I don’t appreciate being spied on?

For some people who use online social media platforms, these questions may not seem at all pertinent. In reality, there are millions of people who will continue to use Facebook and other platforms without caring about how their data is being used. It’s about personal opinion. But the recent debate has definitely triggered me to research the subject and to consider boycotting the platforms altogether, or at least finding out ways that the platforms can be used in a more secure way.

Nothing in life is free – with this in mind, we shouldn’t really be shocked to find out the extent of Facebook’s ‘data harvesting’. In the world of ‘big data’, the value of each ‘share’, ‘like’, ‘upload’, ‘comment’ etc.. is massive. On the surface, Facebook appears to be a social network allowing you to keep in touch with friends but in the world of online advertising, it is a very sophisticated surveillance tool. This is the price we pay in the digital age – everything we do, not only online but offline too is being tracked – every smartphone is essentially also a tracking device.

So without ditching all digital aspects of modern life and going to live in a remote forest with no access to technology (tempting as this may be), it is up to us, the user to become savvy and learn how to use platforms like Facebook in a way we feel comfortable doing.

Here are some tips as recommend by Tom’s Guide, to minimise the amount of data you share with Facebook:

1. Check what apps you have linked to your Facebook account

You can check what apps are linked to your account by going to ‘Settings’ and then clicking ‘Apps & Websites’ as below:

You can then select a particular app and remove it:

I was actually quite shocked to see that I had 215 apps connected to my account! Although it is fairly straightforward to disconnect and remove these apps, it is harder to view what data they have already collected – you have to contact the developer directly for this information and to request them to delete it. Time consuming to say the least!

2. Use Facebook in a private browsing mode

Accessing Facebook via private browsing mode such as Google Chrome’s Incognito mode will send less trackable data to Facebook. The shortcut on a PC is Shit+Ctrl+N which will automatically open it when using Chrome.

Installing the Facebook Container Extension is another way to access Facebook in a private browsing window.

3. Log out of Facebook when you aren’t using it

When you stay logged in to Facebook and continue to do other browsing online, Facebook can track everything you do, not just on FB but across the web.

4. Consider using Tracker Blockers

Tracker blockers protect your data as you are browsing, tools such as Disconnect and Privacy Badger are useful and mean you don’t have to keep logging in and out.

5. Opt out of the Facebook platform API sharing

By doing this you will disconnect and log out of all the third party apps that you have given permissions to log in with your Facebook account, see below:

Just click edit and turn this feature off. Again, this doesn’t delete data that has already been collected by these third parties, you have to contact each one separately for this, but it does stop them collecting further data.

6. Delete Facebook owned apps from your smartphone

Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram and Whatsapp are all owned by Facebook. Whilst you have these apps on your phone, they will have access to your contacts, location, personal data like photos and other phone features.

7. Turn off face recognition settings

I actually looked to do this on my Facebook account and I don’t have this feature as I’ve set my Timeline and Tagging to go to review so I have to approve any photos I’m tagged in. You can find it in the below window:

8. Stop doing those silly quizzes and surveys

If, like me, you get sucked in to those quizzes like, What Will I Look Like When I’m 80? or What’s the One Thing You Must Know About Your Future? then it’s time to resist these. Yes, they are fun and kill a bit of time, but this is how the Cambridge Analytica data was harvested, through a personality test written by Dr Aleksandr Kogan on a third party app.

The introduction of GDPR on 25th May 2018 is certainly a step in the right direction in terms of a shift of power from the big corporates collecting data back to the consumer. However, we, the digital user need to think twice about how we are using these platforms. Essentially, we are responsible for granting access to our data.

Sources & References:

http://fortune.com/2018/04/10/facebook-cambridge-analytica-what-happened/

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/apr/10/facebook-notify-users-data-harvested-cambridge-analytica

https://www.elitedaily.com/p/what-data-does-facebook-collect-the-company-can-store-info-about-your-phone-calls-8631437

https://www.tomsguide.com/us/facebook-cambridge-data-trump,news-26800.html

https://www.tomsguide.com/us/facebook-privacy-tips,news-26798.html