The fracas over Cambridge Analytica, a data harvesting organisation accused of misusing user data to influence the US Presidential election, has shocked many into asking serious questions about how our information is used. Facebook has come in for a lot of criticism, but they are no more to blame than any other social media platform.
To a certain extent, users too must take some of the blame. When users sign up to Facebook (or any other social media site), they agree to allow their personal details to be passed on to organisations such as Cambridge Analytica. There are steps you can take to protect your data.
The Facebook Model
Have you ever wondered how Facebook manages to make its main service free to 50 billion users? It’s because the site is maintained and paid for through advertising. Most of its advertising is “targeted” which means ads are tailored to your general demographic and to your individualised web surfing industry. Users all Facebook to sustain itself by “paying” with information. There is nothing wrong with handing over this data – but information is the new currency to many businesses. It’s understandable that you don’t want businesses getting hold of anything too personal. This is how you maintain control over your data.
Be More Critical of the Apps You Install
We’ve all done it. We all install funny apps from surveys to personality quizzes to comic strip representations and games. Part of the Facebook experience is the add-on software but may ask for data they should not need.
• What do you look like on a glamour magazine cover?
• What would you look like as the opposite sex?
• Can you answer all these questions? Only 1/100 people can!
• What’s your real EQ (Emotional Intelligence) level?
And many others like them. But the trick is usually, to get your results, you need to provide access to your Facebook account. They ask for your contacts list, email address and phone number. The first step you can take is by not engaging with apps that ask for this information. You shouldn’t need to provide personal data to access a set of survey answers. This is the biggest way organisations such as Cambridge Analytica harvest user data.
How to Get Rid of Unwanted Apps Taking Your Data
We learn from our mistakes and you soon learn that these apps are far less concerned about which silver screen star you look like than they are about where you live and your buying habits. Facebook has already changed their policy on what type of data such apps can collect, but some still require access to some personal information. This is how you rescind permission and get rid of those apps designed only to harvest your data.
1. Login to Facebook and find the small down arrow next to the help icon (along the top bar which also contains the New Friend Request, Messenger and Notifications). Click it and go down to Settings near the bottom of the list
2. On the left-hand side, find the “Apps” section and click it
3. Next, you should see a page will all the apps to which you’ve given permission
4. If you want to switch off all apps, see the box that says “Apps, Websites and Plugins” and click “Edit”. The box will ask you if you’re sure you want to disable it. Then simply disable all apps
5. If you don’t want to disable everything (because some of these apps are harmless, useful even), look at the app list. Click the pencil icon on each one (which will read “Edit Setting” when you hover over it). A dialogue box will come up. Ensure you remove all the ticks. This will remove permission for all data harvesting. When done, click “Save”. You can then remove the app. However, simply removing the app won’t disable permissions. It’s vital to remove the permissions first.