Securing your Social Media Privacy

22 Mar 2018 Ian Kelly    Last updated: 22 Mar 2018

With the recent public outcry regarding how Facebook have used it’s user’s personal information, and a not so shocking nosedive in share prices as a result, it’s time to look at your own privacy and reduce your social media surface area.

It is safe to say that the majority of Facebook users share a lot of personal information, sometimes without even realising. I would like to believe that most would be aware of not sharing their home addresses, although some photographs may have your front door in the background or you may have location sharing enabled giving a nice gps pinpoint to your home. This can be compounded with a simple holiday beach snap indicating that your house is currently empty and ready to raid, not to mention the information we have shared on our children already without them even knowing what Facebook is (even I admit to this one as an over-proud Dad!).

Facebook, and Twitter to some extent, have their privacy defaults set very low to begin with, meaning that if you have signed up and changed nothing, you are likely sharing more than you would care to. I have provided some guidelines below on measures you can take to restrict who or what has access to your personal information, putting you back in the driving seat of your own data.

What happened?
Back in 2014, and potentially as far back as 2011, a personality testing app ‘ThisIsYourDigitalLife’ which asked to connect to Facebook for 270,000 users and shared the data of all their connected friends totalling about 50 million users, however a whistle-blower is claiming there to be many times that amount. Facebook did little to remediate this or communicate to its service users. This data has been implicated in the American voting scandal as being used to further the Trump campaign via the propagation of ‘Fake News’.

What do they really know about you?
The data held contains a vast amount of useful information to target users and analytics on every detail of your Facebook usage, down to your scrolling speed and what you spend time looking at, to articles, products, pages or images you like. They know about your family, friends, political views, education, travel habits, clothing preferences and much more. Their privacy policy states: “We receive data whenever you visit a game, application, or website that uses Facebook Platform or visit a site with a Facebook feature … sometimes through cookies.”

What can they do with it?
The main aim for their business is to accurately target services users for advertising purposes. You search on Amazon or Google for new shoes and suddenly you get lots of advertising about similar shoes or brands. You get targeted ads based on your demographic or location and any other variable they know of you. In this case, before any measures were in place to restrict what apps can do with your data, they have allegedly made a lot of money in the sale and potential misuse for political gain.

What can you do to stop it?
The defaults of Facebook’s privacy settings are basic and are set that you and your data are left relatively open to the world. If you choose not to delete or deactivate your account (extreme, but effective!) you can navigate to the privacy settings to make some important changes. It is best to do this from a computer and not a mobile device as more options will be made available to you.

View your entire FB archive: Settings – General – Download  a copy of your Facebook data
Handy to have if you choose to delete your virtual FB self, it will include all the photos you have uploaded over the years

Check Device Access: Settings – Security & Login
See where you are currently logged in from and what devices, remove what you aren’t sure about.
Enable two-factor authentication, this is the best method to secure access to your account.

Restrict who can see and connect with you: Settings – Privacy
Limit your post visibility to friends only
Restrict access to your friends list, protect their visibility.
Disable search engine linking, stop people finding your profile via Google.

Stop unauthorised App access: Settings – Apps
This being where the current data leak occurred, you may be unaware as to what apps have connected to your account or what they have access to. Review and remove any unnecessary ones here.

Disable Facebook Platform: Settings – Apps – ‘Apps, Websites and Plug-Ins’
This is the system that Facebook uses to allow any app to integrate and gain access to your account and data, disable this ability entirely with one click! It will stop any current connected app from functioning, so be aware.

Stop others from using your data: Settings – Apps – ‘Apps others use’
Hopefully this should all be deselected by default now, but as with the current story, this is how your information may have been shared via apps that your friends have used and shared your information unknowingly.

Update your Ad Settings: Settings – Ads
This is where you would receive ads for products and services appropriate to your search history and demographic. You can control this, so if you feel like this is a personal violation, please disable.

 

Further information:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/21/cambridge-analytica-facebook-data-users-profit 
http://www.trustedreviews.com/news/facebook-privacy-settings-2939307
https://www.facebook.com/help/325807937506242/

The opinions, views or comments in this article do not necessarily reflect any views or policies of NICVA.
ian.kelly@nicva.org's picture
by Ian Kelly

Systems Administrator

[email protected]

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