The debate about how information on Facebook is shared, and who it’s shared with, has kicked off again.
Allegations that British research firm Cambridge Analytica has misused the data of 50 million Facebook users have reopened the debate.
Cambridge Analytica is alleged to have used one of these Facebook quizzes – This Is Your Digital life – to gather the data of millions of people.
Investigating the problem
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is reportedly launching an investigation into Facebook over whether it violated terms of a 2011 consent decree in the wake of reports Cambridge Analytica harvested information from 50 million profiles. The investigation relates to whether Facebook allowed Cambridge Analytica to obtain users’ personal data to support Trump’s 2016 US presidential campaign, in violation of its policies. Britain’s Information Commission is investigating whether Facebook did enough to protect data.
As news of the scandal about the world’s largest social media network spread, Facebook shares closed down nearly 7%, wiping nearly $40 billion off its market value as investors worried that damage to its reputation of would deter advertisers and users.
Days later, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg broke his silence over the matter, admitting that the network “made mistakes”. Zuckerberg said a “breach of trust” had occurred and promised to take action against “rogue apps”. Cambridge Analytica denies any wrongdoing.
Lessons learned – and how you can protect your Facebook data
This scandal could push other tech companies to tighten data sharing, in fact we expect this in the days and weeks that follow. We know that Facebook can build detailed profiles on users’ likes, dislikes, lifestyles and political leanings. But, the bigger question being asked is, who does Facebook share this information with? And how can we regain control of our own information?
The lesson learned here is the need to understand exactly what it is we’re sharing on Facebook, and how to protect our data.
Next time you’re on Facebook, make sure that you’re protecting yourself. If you’re taking any quizzes or interacting with games, many of the apps won’t allow you to log in, play the game, do the quiz or anything in that manner until you accept the terms and conditions.
To ensure no data is collected or shared, simply stop doing quizzes – the kind that show what you’d look like as a celebrity, reveal your future or test your IQ. These are designed to attract you and when you ‘bite’ they collect your data.
But, if you still want to play, you’ll have to accept the terms and conditions to access the content.
There are ways to limit the data that the apps can see by taking a few simple steps.
- Log into Facebook on a desktop and click the drop-down menu. If you’re on a mobile, you’ll need the 3-horizontal line icon and then ‘Account Settings’.
- To check what apps have your data, click ‘Apps’, followed by ‘Logged in with Facebook’. This will give you all the apps that have access to your data via Facebook.
- You can then view the exact data you’re sharing with each app. Do this by selecting the pencil icon on a desktop, or the arrow on a mobile.
- Click the blue ticks to deselect your personal information.
- If you want to revoke access completely, click the cross next to the app.
You can even take this a step further by ensuring any data these apps already hold is deleted.
- Once you’ve clicked the pencil/arrow to review the data you’re sharing with the app as above, click ‘Report App’ at the bottom and select ‘I want to send my own message to the developer’.
- You can send the developer a message – you should request that all your personal data is removed from their database – so that any information that’s stored is deleted.
One you’ve done that, you can help to protect your data in future by reviewing your Facebook data regularly. You can do this in desktop mode, by clicking ‘Settings’, ‘General’, and then ‘Download a copy of your Facebook data’. This allows you to see exactly what you are sharing. This is a great way for you to take control over what you want to share, or not.