Facebook users have faced quite a scare in recent weeks, with the revelation that their data can be freely accessed, bought and used by advertisers and other entities. Now, many are looking for a way to tighten up their social media security.
The anxiety broke out in the first week of 2018, when a Channel 4 News report revealed that political research company Cambridge Analytica had used Facebook user data to influence the presidential election. The company reportedly obtained 50 million Facebook users' personal information without any form of hacking. Instead, they simply used the data from a Facebook app, which gives developers and researchers access to the data of everyone who signs up.
For the sake of convenience, ease and connectivity, many people use their Facebook profile to sign into many different websites, or access many different apps. What they forget, or don't realize in many cases, is that this gives those website access to their information as well as that of their friends. It allows companies to track and potentially influence behavior, both on and offline.
The good news is, personal data is encrypted and made anonymous automatically by Facebook. However, advertisers, ad-tech partners and developers can acquire or purchase enough data in bulk to see the patterns across various demographic lines and try to use it for their agendas.
To see how to clear this data from your own Facebook profile, read on.
Click on settings so that you can see how your data privacy is set up, or how it has defaulted to.prevnext
In the column on the left-hand side of the screen, click on "Apps" to see the settings associated with Facebook apps and websites you've signed into.prevnext
You'll see all of the apps that you or your friends have given access to your data. Different apps may have access to different things, but one way or another, each of these companies can track your activity online. Personally, I found 37 apps with access to my information, many of which I didn't even recognize.prevnext
In his apology for the Cambridge Analytica breach, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg explained that this built in access was originally meant to make things easier users.
"In 2007, we launched the Facebook Platform with the vision that more apps should be social," he wrote. "Your calendar should be able to show your friends' birthdays, your maps should show where your friends live, and your address book should show their pictures. To do this, we enabled people to log into apps and share who their friends were and some information about them."prevnext
If you take a close look at each app, you'll see that they all have a faint "X" and a small button shaped like a pencil. With the X, you can delete the app entirely so it will no longer have access to your Facebook account. With the pencil, you can edit what the app's developers and advertisers can see.prevnext
By clicking the pencil icon, you'll see the extensive list of permissions the app has given itself automatically when you signed in. In some cases, the data is completely unrelated to the service the app is meant to provide.prevnext
Back in the main apps page, you can scroll down to edit how apps get access to your information in the future. In particular, you may want to take a look at what information you're allowing Facebook to share with the apps your friends are using.prevnext
If you haven't customized these settings before, you'll see that you're automatically giving advertisers access to a lot of information, some of which apps likely don't need to do their jobs. At the very least, some find it creepy to allow this information to fall into the hands of advertisers, so adjust these settings however you see fit.prev