The recent revelations about how Facebook collects, stores and allows others to use your personal data should be a concern to every social media user. But this shouldn’t really surprise us, any free online account comes with an implicit bargain: use it for free to check news feeds, post images and thoughts even poke your friends but understand that the company providing that service will collect your data.
This is what all free social media accounts do and they will argue that it is to help service ads, predict users moods and improve services and functionality. We trust most of these big companions like Facebook to be diligent stewards of our personal data, but repeated failures to live up to their side of the barging have shown this trust in social media is probably misplaced.
So with that in mind what can we do?
Well, one option is to delete your social media accounts. However, that is a fairly drastic solution and more than a little overkill. It is better we understand how we can protect our data and actively do so. Not only will this let us enjoy the benefits of social media but it will signal to social media how we want them to sore and use the data that we provide them in return.
Like all online accounts, you should ensure that your social media account uses a strong password and be careful in not sharing that info or strong it directly on your computer. Actually, most social accounts like Facebook are fairly secure as you can use two-factor authentications. This system requires the user to enter a security code that is sent to their mobile device when login into an account from an unrecognized computer.
To turn on this feature:
- Go to your Security and Login Settings by clicking in the top-right corner of Facebook and clicking Settings > Security and Login.
- Scroll down to Use two-factor authentication and click Edit
- Choose the authentication method you want to add and follow the on-screen instructions
- Click Enable once you’ve selected and turned on an authentication method
While this will help protect your account from hacks it won’t limit or alter the way Facebooks users can see or collect your data. For that, you need to lock down your Facebook privacy settings.
Facebook does have some key settings to limit who can see your posts however they understandably don’t make it clear where these are, fortunately below we will walk you through these so you can keep adverts and spam at bay.
Check App Permissions
One of the big revelations this last week was how a simple personality app on Facebook was able to gather data on as many as 50 million users.
No doubt over the course of using Facebook you will have added apps to your profile. Whether it’s a fun game or simple personality test these apps usually ask for permissions to a treasure trove of your data, collecting info on what pictures you’ve shared where you’ve been and who your friends are. It’s probably time you did an audit of the apps associated with your Facebook account and boot all those that you don’t have a reason to keep
This is really simple. If you’re using Facebook on your computer then click on the down-pointing arrow in the top right corner.
From the drop-down menu that appears click Settings.
Then go to apps and have a little look at all those apps with permissions to collect your data. That was scary right, don’t worry keep reading and well tell you what to do next.
Not only can you see what apps are here but also what info they can gather.
To revoke any of the permissions you have granted just hover over the app icon and then click the little pencil to edit the settings.
To scrap the app completely click the x. Then confirm you’re sure you want to take that action in the pop up that follows.
Take special note of any apps under the login with Facebook that are set as friends and consider changing them to only me which will restrict who can see you’re using those apps.
Note that removing any apps at this stage will only prevent them from getting future data from you. In order to get them to remove any past data they still hold you will need to contact them directly.
Seem like we have done a lot, but you’re not done yet.
You now need to check what Apps, Websites and plug-ins are also connected and have access to your info. From that main Apps screen scroll down a little further.
If you don’t want Apps, websites and plug-ins to be integrated into your account and see your data you should disable this setting. Click the edit button and then select disable platform. Note that if you use Facebook to log into other sites then this will also stop that from happening.
You will also see an Apps others uses just below. This is where you can set all the info your sharing such as birthday, when you’re online, who you’re friends with etc. This info can be collected from your profile even if one of your Facebook friends uses an app or plug-in. So you probably want to uncheck everything in this list. This will, of course, prevent you from using most of the games or plug-ins yourself but hey you probably didn’t use those anyway right.
Now you have set up your personal settings it’s time to check out the Ad settings. Go back to the settings menu and this time head to Ads.
As Facebook makes its money through ads there is not a lot you can change here. It is in Facebook’s interest to match the ads to you that you want to see, so by controlling these settings, you should get a better experience. However, if you want to limit the ads then you can do that with the ad settings as well.
Under the Ad settings, you can turn off ads based on what websites you use and visit. You can also remove the ads with your social actions – this will greatly please your friends as it will stop broadcasting to them what sponsored posts you liked or responded to.
While you’re here you should probably check out your information settings. Facebook makes a broad range of assumptions about you and uses these to help direct ads it thinks you would be interested in.
This info is about how you log on to Facebook. What email you have, what your interests are and also some general demographic info such as your month of birth and where you live. You can remove any of these by clicking the X that comes up when you hover the mouse icon over them. Those options will then be greyed out once deselected.
If you’ve been on Facebook as long as I have you’ve probably gathered a number of friends along the way who you have probably totally forgotten about. Don’t worry, they probably don’t remember or recognize you either. To take a quick look at who can see what head over to the settings and then click Privacy.
By looking at the Who can see my future posts you can manage whether your posts are public, for all to see, or limit your posts to friends or even a custom group of your choice.
Whichever you decide you can go and select the Limit the audience for posts you’ve shared with friends of friends or public to retroactively adjust the settings for past posts. This means that if your posts were set to public and you have changed them to friends it will not automatically change who can view the past posts on your timeline. But this setting will change those past posts to reflect the new settings.
You can also adjust how people can search for you and find your Facebook profile.
To control who can and can’t tag you in pictures you want to head to timeline and tagging.
Here you can prevent people from tagging you in those embarrassing school photos that they found when moving house, now they won’t appear on your timeline for your current friends to gawk at.
I will leave these settings to you as it all depends how active you are on Facebook, but it’s useful to know that you can blacklist people here to stop an ex from invading your Facebook space with spammy photos or stop undesirable pictures from surfacing with you tagged in them.
Now you have secured your account and restricted the ads and spam you can get back to checking out your friends baby pics or update your account with your latest gastronomical delights. We hope this article was helpful, stay safe online and happy surfing.