Facebook recently suspended Cambridge Analytica, a political data analytics firm, for the improper collection and retention of user information. While it is nice to see Facebook take action in these sort of cases, there is a bigger underlying problem, and that is the amount of personal information we collectively make available to third parties. If this concerns you, there are some steps you can take to regain control of your data.
The biggest one, of course, is to delete your Facebook account. That is obviously an extreme measure that is akin to killing a fly with a shotgun when all you really need to do is close a window (or add a screen) to prevent flies from getting inside in the first place. Still, if you are fed up with social media in general, it is an option. You can also temporarily disable your Facebook account if you just want to take a break. To do that, open Facebook in any browser, click on the arrow in the upper-right corner, and click Settings. Next, click on the General link in the left-hand column, then the Edit link under Manage Account. There you will find the option to Deactivate your account. If you want to permanently delete your account instead, follow this link.
A far less extreme measure is to set your Facebook posts to private rather than public. This ensures that not just anyone can look up your profile and start harvesting data about you, your friends, the places you have been, and so forth. To do this, go back into Settings and select Privacy on the left-hand column. The very top option allows you to select who exactly can see your posts. Your options include:
- Friends except...
- Specific friends
- Only Me
By choosing Friends, only users who are authorized to view your content will ever see it. Alternately, the other options provide even tighter control over who gets to see what you posts and the information contained in your profile, so choose the one that best suits the level of privacy you are after.
As it pertains to third-party apps like the one Cambridge Analytics used to harvest people's information, you will need to turn some additional dials. Namely, go into Settings > Apps to see a list of the ones you have authorized to log into Facebook. Delete the ones you don't use or don't trust. For all of the rest. click on Edit and to manage what information the app can access.
While in this section, you might also considering disabling third-party apps altogether. This is another extreme measure, but if you want to do that, click on the Edit button underneath Apps, Websites and Plugins.
Finally, another thing you can do is take control of your Likes, or more specifically take control over who can see what content you Like on Facebook. You can do this going into your Timeline, clicking on More and selecting Likes. This brings up a list of pages that you Like. This makes it easy to unlike certain pages, though you can also edit the privacy of each one.