Cybersecurity, Social

Privacy, data and information: How to fix your Facebook

By this point, there exists a massive collection of Facebook-related articles that have surfaced since news broke about the Cambridge Analytica data leak a few weeks prior. Today, Mark Zuckerberg will testify in front of the joint Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees before appearing in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee tomorrow; and doubtless more breaking news is set to follow. It’s going to be a testing two days for the Facebook CEO, where alongside raising the issue of whether Facebook has become a media company, the grilling is set to investigate how much Zuckerberg knew in relation to the leak and even further look at ties to the Russian interference in the Presidential elections in 2016. It’s intriguing news that will add to the thematic tissue of the ever evolving Facebook-gate.

However whilst the spotlight firmly shines on Mark Zuckerberg and the media storm hungrily circles around the CEO and his responses today, the priority of the user and their data should not go unmissed. Also by this point, the majority of Facebook users are aware that the platform is undergoing a number of changes to enhance security. Alongside the tweaks which have seen apps such as Tinder come to a temporary standstill, there are also a number of other things that we, as users, are now capable of doing to both heighten our profile security and also understand quite which implications our previous data submissions really entailed. The trick is that there are simply so many articles documenting this that it’s actually quite difficult to tell the disparity between each guide and how it is important to our personal data safety. Here is a definitive list of how to do everything related to Facebook’s security.

How to actually change your Facebook privacy settings.

First off, there are essentially a variety of layers associated with Facebook privacy settings from the data provided to outside sources to the level of security surrounding finding friends on Facebook. In the top right hand corner of the Facebook main page, a tiny downward arrow is all that really stands in the way of knowing quite how many private details you signed your life away to in the earlier days of Facebook.

By selecting the arrow and then ‘Privacy’ you can firstly amend the way that your profile is viewed online and through search engines.  By then scrolling to the bottom of the ‘Apps and Websites’ tabs you can further amend the settings regarding outside websites; by which turning the option ‘off’ means you then can’t click on links which lead to external sites, or ‘interact with or share content from other apps and websites on Facebook using social plugins’. Whilst somewhat restrictive it also ensures that external sites delete anything they’ve posted that is linked to your account; the choice is yours.

How to check if your data was accessed by Cambridge Analytica

According to Facebook, the 87 million users that had their data harvested recently would have received a pop-up notification once they accessed their accounts today. This notification would have informed the users that the app ‘This is your digital life’ had not only accessed their data – either through their own doing or through the connection to a friend’s account – but that Cambridge Analytica had certainly harvested the data too.

Users that are still concerned about their data can also double check if their data was shared by clicking here. This will take you to a page in Facebook’s help centre, where the central white box will either inform you that the data was used, or on the contrary this message:

‘Based on our available records, neither you nor your friends logged into “This Is Your Digital Life. As a result, it doesn’t appear your Facebook information was shared with Cambridge Analytica by “This Is Your Digital Life.’’

How to see what Apps you have given permission to access your Facebook data.

As most of you might remember, back in the early days of Facebook it was cool to Like and Join everything. This ranges from college groups to cafe pages in order to get a free cup of tea, to timehop to a variety of really unusual Facebook followings. If you want to take a trip down memory lane, once again head to the downward arrow in the right hand corner. From there, within the left hand menu it is possible to press a link named, ‘Apps and Websites’ which will thus list a number of Applications that are connected to your Facebook account.

It is possible to remove these Apps in a simple click upon the page, however once requesting the action a pop-up from Facebook will notify as such:

“If you remove (any App), it may delete your (App) account and activity. (The App) may also still have access to information you previously shared, but can’t make additional requests for private information. Also delete all posts, photos and videos on Facebook that (App)  may have published on your behalf.”

The key defining point here outlines that the App still has the right to hold any former information the user has provided, meaning that years of data might have already been harvested. If you wish to actually discover specifically what each App has accessed, this would require individually contacting the separate platforms or reading the privacy agreements on each of them – a hefty, time-consuming chore in the name of data protection.

How to see all the information that Facebook has on you.

This option will allow you to trace all the archives that Facebook has documented on your social media existence since signing up to the platform. This means all the messages, photo uploads, likes, statuses, Facebook relationships and groups can be provided to you in a downloadable format.

You can download your information from your settings. To download your information, click the downward arrow again and select Settings. From there you can find an option at the bottom of General Account Settings to download your archive. Given that this download sometimes contains nearly ten years worth of information this also occasionally takes some time to process the download. During which time you can probably reflect on what unusual Apps you signed up to, and whether deleting the account would be worth it.

How to see what categories Facebook identifies you in.

So this sneaky gem is relatively hidden within the depths of your Facebook settings and is probably, by my standards anyway, the most interesting area of Facebook which relies on the platform to analyse the information you’ve unknowingly provided over the years for them to make generally sweeping conclusions that normally aren’t too far from the truth. This tactic is then used to provide you with targeted advertising that marketers believe would benefit your said category.

This access can be found in the settings section once again. From there you select the ‘Ads’ button, before the ‘About you’ section, before finally accessing ‘Your categories’.  Instantly, they know what type of phone you use, if you’ve moved away from home and an array of different categories that seem fitting for your profile. Of course these generalisations aren’t always specifically true – my top categories, for instance, make me sound a little lonely – but this can easily be amended by clicking the ‘x’ and apparently cancelling the category for good.


How to delete Facebook entirely.

When all else has failed, Facebook has branded you in some strange categories and your data is simply sprawled across the internet, data grabbing sphere; there is always deleting the app entirely. Whilst actually being quite liberating for the mind, the #DeleteFacebook trend also maintains some weight around the internet and has seen a few very familiar faces disappear from Facebook. Among them are Cher, Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey, the whole band behind Massive Attack and also tech moguls such as Elon Musk, Whatsapp creator, Brian Acton and the co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak. Users looking to jump on this bandwagon can do so by going to this page and selecting ‘delete my account’. As with the notifications that remind you, this will permanently delete your Facebook and all your data will be irretrievable following the decision.


In reality, following Zuckerberg’s meetings with Congress today, the platform has already set in motion a series of quick amendments which have substantially heightened security as well as raised public awareness of the greater issue of data sharing, a realm of immense size that is still technically new territory for the entire globe. Perhaps these security enhancements will change, or atleast become easier to carry out following Facebook’s grilling. The question now is whether Zuckerberg can withstand the heat.


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