Should we all be leaving Facebook?

22 March 2018

How to protect your data


The debate on how our information is shared on social media – and with whom – has been reopened.

Tech giant Facebook and data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica are at the centre of a dispute over the harvesting and use of personal data - and whether it was used to influence the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election or the UK Brexit referendum.

Although both firms deny any wrongdoing, the boss of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, has been suspended and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been called on by a Commons parliamentary committee to give evidence.

Facebook is able to build detailed and sophisticated profiles on users' likes, dislikes, lifestyles and political leanings. Games and quizzes on Facebook are designed to tempt users in, but they are often just a shop front for mass data collection.

It was information from a third party personality quiz -This is Your Digital Life - produced by psychology professor Aleksandr Kogan, placed on Facebook and funded by Cambridge Analytica, that Cambridge Analytica then is alleged to have used to harvest the data of millions of people.

The data was gathered using Facebook's services at that time, but the data was not authorised for them to share with others. Facebook has now changed its terms and conditions to cut down on the information that third parties can collect, specifically stopping them from accessing data about users' friends. They insist when they learned their rules had been breached, they removed the app and demanded assurances that the information had been deleted.

So how can you protect your personal information?

  • Log in to Facebook and visit the App Settings page
  • Click edit button under Apps, Websites and Plugins
  • Disable Platform

Limit the personal information accessible by apps while still using them:

  • Log into Facebook's App Settings page
  • Unclick every category you don't want the app to access, which includes bio, birthday, family, religious views, if you are online, posts on your timeline, activities and interests

Speaking to the BBC, Paul Bernal, a lecturer in Information Technology, Intellectual Property and Media Law in the University of East Anglia School of Law gave this advice:

“Never click on a 'like' button on a product service page. If you want to play these games and quizzes, don't log in through Facebook but go directly to the site.

“Using Facebook Login is easy but doing so, grants the app's developer access to a range of information from their Facebook profiles.”

He added that the only way to make sure your data remains entirely private is to leave Facebook altogether, although for many users, it has become an integral part of their daily lives.

Finding where are data is stored is likely to become easier with the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). GDPR is a new EU legal requirement that becomes enforceable from 25th May 2018. The GDPR applies to all companies worldwide that process personal data of European Union (EU) citizens.

This law will radically change the way organisations look after our personal data. Failure to comply could lead to huge fines. One of the biggest changes of GDPR will be the right for people to be forgotten and, under these changes it should, in theory, be much easier to wipe your social network or other online history from existence.



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