Keeping Your Privacy on FacebookMarch 21, 2018
By now, you’ve seen the news stories about Cambridge Analytica (CA), a British research firm that harvested information from the Facebook accounts of millions of Americans with the intent to influence voters. About 270,000 Facebook users agreed to take to a short personality quiz offered by CA, but the quiz downloaded an app that then captured data from all the participants’ Facebook contacts. So, the quarter million people who chose to share information unwittingly exposed the personal information of 50 million more who had no choice in the matter.
While the CA data capture is probably not a data breach in the legal sense, you could certainly see it as a violation of privacy, and it shows just how exposed you are on social media. Scammers could just as easily mine personal information to manipulate their victims in a phishing campaign. For example, they could pose as a charity you follow on Facebook in order to get your credit card information. If you want to avoid being part of online tracking and profiling, whether by politicos, advertisers, or potential scammers, here are some steps you can take.
- Tighten up your third-party app settings to control the amount of information apps can harvest and remove apps that you no longer use. Here are detailed instructions on how to do this. There are also settings to control what information friends’ apps can gather from you and a mechanism to contact the app developer and ask that they delete your information that they’ve already gathered.
- Check your Facebook privacy settings and restrict the information that other people (and their apps) can see about you and your Facebook friends. Interestingly, third-party app settings are separate from personal privacy settings. It’s also a good idea to clear your browsing history and cookies periodically.
- Facebook and other sites change their terms of service and privacy policies frequently. Fine tune your personal settings now and set a reminder in your handy smart phone or calendar for a privacy check-up every few months.
- Never install games, quizzes, or other plug-ins without carefully checking their privacy policies first. When you click on a pop-up or ad, there will usually be a link to the “terms of service.” Boring as those are, read them!
- Consider privacy software. There are third-party apps available to block online ads and tracking of your online behavior. Prices range from free to a few dollars.
The final step is to think hard about what you share on social media. Your data is valuable to businesses and criminals alike, and they are always finding new ways to get it. As long as you have social media accounts or even spend time on the Internet, they will find ways to track you. You don’t have to go so far as joining the #DeleteFacebook movement. But if you value your privacy, be careful where you go, what you click, and what you share online.