How to Protect Your Data: Lessons from Cambridge Analytica

In the last couple weeks, I’ve written a few blogs and recorded some Facebook Live videos to breakdown and share my takeaways on the complicated Cambridge Analytica situation. As a result, I knew that the next natural topic would be to talk about how to protect your data.

Facebook settings

Privacy Settings

Do you know how to access your Privacy Settings? On desktop you can find it from the blue arrow in the upper right hand corner. Hit that drop down arrow and choose Settings.

If you are in the Facebook app, look at the bottom navigation bar all the way to the right. There are 3 lines, this is called a hamburger menu (bun, meat, bun) and when you choose that menu you’ll scroll all the way to the bottom to find Settings or Privacy Shortcuts.

If you access Facebook from a mobile browser, you’ll see a hamburger menu in the upper right hand corner, scroll all the way down that menu and you’ll see Account Settings and Privacy Shortcuts.

Consistency is not their strong suit. I recommend you do this from a desktop.

I recommend you go through each setting in every tab. I’m going to be your mom for a minute and tell you that you should have already spent time here, for the safety of your data, the data of others, and because you are an *informed consumer.* Sorry, had to do it. Anyway, if this is your first time really getting into your settings, there’s no time like the present to take the bull by the horns.

This is also where you will download a copy of your Facebook data.

Audit Your App Permissions

app permissions

Now that you’re investigating how you have your account setup, it’s time to make an important change. Choose the Apps tab in Settings. When you get there, you’ll see all the apps you have given permission to your data. Many of these are there because you use the easy account signup feature called Open Authorization or OAuth. It allows you to use your Facebook log-in credentials to setup new accounts in other places, it’s a convenience option. But you need to know that this convenience means you are giving up some of your data in the process.

The good news is you can change the settings or delete the app access all together. You can see the app name, the privacy setting, a pencil (to edit), and a radio button that allows you to select the app. Use those radio buttons to select a bunch of apps and hit the Remove button to get rid of them quickly. Use the pencil to edit how they access your data.

Be ruthless, thorough, and patient. This will take time.

Restrict Advertising

Go down one tab in your Settings. There’s a tab for Ads. This is the biggest change I’ve seen in the service since Cambridge Analytica was on the cover of every news website. Open each one. When I opened my interests, I spotted the NRA front and center. Now I’m not anti-gun but that definitely shouldn’t be there. Hover over each and an X pops up to clean up your interests. There are SO MANY. Again, take your time.

Your Interests

You’ll get freaked out when you go into the Advertisers you’ve interacted with section. This is the phrasing that disturbed me “Review advertisers whose ads you may be seeing because you’re on their customer list.” There were hundreds of companies I didn’t know and I have no idea how I got on a customer list in their databases. Time to clean house.

Checking out Your Information will show you how you are categorized. You can remove some or all of these. In the Ad Settings I have them all Off or set at No. But the Ads with your social actions is the one that’s been around for years that I make sure to show my clients and students.

ads with social actions

I’m looking out for you on this one because let’s say you like a page or post that’s *inappropriate* and NSFW. That page could make a choice in their advertising to show your friends that you like their page or content. This can have embarrassing (or more) consequences.

Next you’ll want to Hide ad topics. This one currently only mentions alcohol, parenting, and pets. Imagine that you are sober and seeing ads for alcohol could risk your health. Or maybe you’ve recently lost a child, furry or otherwise, so that kind of advertising is just painful. You can choose to hide for 6 months, 1 year, or permanently.

Hide ad topics

Read Privacy Policies

Honestly, this is a bit much to ask. I’m not recommending you read the 47 pages of Terms and Conditions most services offer. I mean the app permissions that pop up on your phone or the dialog box on your desktop. The are actually designed to be short and to the point about what’s about to happen. I’m routinely shocked to see how quickly my clients and students push the Accept button. Slow down, read, ask questions, and think about it before allowing your apps.

Blockers for Desktop & Mobile Privacy Badger

another lock protect your dataYou can also use blockers for sites that track your activity and data. I discovered two that were recommended and I ended up downloading the Privacy Badger extension from the Google Store. I chose that one over the other because it’s developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and organization I trust. The app description reads, it “blocks spying ads and invisible trackers. It’s there to ensure that companies can’t track your browsing without your consent. The extension is designed to automatically protect your privacy from third party trackers that load invisibly when you browse the web.” I am looking to get one for my mobile but haven’t decided yet. I can’t really comment on it’s performance because it’s too new for me.

Practice Good Browser Hygiene

It’s smart to clear your browsing history, cookies, and cache periodically. It is more secure and your browser will work better. The downside is that your saved usernames and passwords will get deleted and you’ll need to reenter them. 

You Can Leave Facebook

Whether you’d like to deactivate for a break or leave entirely, that choice is yours. In case this is something you are entertaining, here’s a blog I wrote to help you understand the difference between the two and the consequences of your choice.

It’s Not Over

Don’t think that you’re in the clear, data-wise, if you leave Facebook. I’m going to do a similar blog about your Google account which has FAR more information on you.

Your data, privacy, security, and the internet are moving targets. Monitoring your assets is something you’ll want to work into your routine as these website and services change regularly. It’s up you to protect your data. No one else will look out for you except for you (and me.)

 

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