Ah, Facebook. Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.
On the one hand, it’s a great tool for catching up with your loved ones here and abroad, and for promoting or discovering various sorts of innovative businesses. (Shameless plug: like us on Facebook if you haven’t yet. *wink*wink*)
On the other hand, the social media giant has a knack for leading its users into sharing more of their personal data than they should, and then profiting off of their unwitting compliance. Let’s not even talk about how certain individuals practically hacked the system to manipulate the last presidential elections, eh?
And now, with the Cambridge Analytica scandal blowing up on the Internet and wiping USD50 billion clean off Facebook’s stock value, a #deleteFacebook campaign is trending worldwide. When you factor in how the Philippines leads the world in social media usage (be it for good or for ill), the hesitation to quit Facebook cold turkey is understandable.
Worried about your online privacy but can’t quite bring yourself to deactivate your FB account? Here are some things you can do to prevent giving away too much of your personal information on the platform:
1. Modify your location services.
I get why Google Maps should have your location, but there is no good reason why Faceboook should have the same at all times. Seriously.
Do you really want companies and other strangers besides to know where you’ve been, where you’re going, where you live, and where you can usually be found at certain times of the day? I didn’t think so.
Here’s how you can turn off or limit the location services function on your Facebook app:
a.) For iPhones, click on your Settings, scroll down to “Privacy” under the general tab, and tap “Location Services.” You will now see which apps have access to your location and how often (e.g., Always, While Using the App, or Never). Make the necessary adjustments by toggling the settings of each app to either “While Using…” or “Never.”
b.) For Android phones, head to your Account Settings and then tap “Location.” Toggle the app’s access from then on as required.
2. Stay away from those pop-up quizzes and/or unlink their apps from your account.
Remember those “What would you look like as a member of the opposite sex?” quizzes?
Sure, those were as fun as a barrel of monkeys, but Cambridge Analytica used a seemingly harmless app called “this is your digital life” (a quiz of sorts that claimed the ability to depict aspects of a user’s personality) to siphon user data from up to 270,000 people who downloaded it and signed on to Facebook while using it.
If you’ve already participated in and shared your results from the said quizzes (to be fair, aren’t we all curious who our true soulmate is?), you can head over to the Apps section of your Facebook account. Scroll through a surprisingly long list of third-party accounts that somehow have eyes on your information (most likely from all those quizzes) and then turn off their access.
3. Limit your sharing settings.
Let’s say you don’t want just any random person to see what you post on your account, but you’d still like to be able to share your online findings with your friends. How do you go about it?
First, you click on the downward-facing triangle next to the question mark icon in the upper right corner of facebook.com. Scroll down to find the “Settings” option at the bottom, and then click on “Privacy” in the left hand column.
You should now be able to see the “Who can see your future posts?” option. Here, you can choose to make your posts Public or visible only to Friends by default. Ideally, you should set this to the latter (though I like to go one extra mile and set mine to “Friends Except Acquaintances” simply so that I can accept relatives’ Facebook invites without letting them see the weird stuff I sometimes post).
Pro-tip: You can also make it so that a certain post is visible only to a few select people. Click Custom and then tag only the contacts you’d like to share your post with or alternatively, make it visible to all your friends except for a select few.
4. Reduce, if not eliminate, the personal information shown on your account.
Now it’s time to limit the amount of total information you’re sharing with Facebook.
To start, click on that question mark icon on the upper right corner of the page and click on “Privacy Check-up.” Here, you can edit or delete all types of information you’ve shared on the app, from your work and education history to where you’ve lived, your email address, and even your contact number.
Some users actually strip their Facebook accounts of all their personal information apart from names, birthdays, and genders, which they then restrict so that it will only be visible to them.
You can still retain your other personal details so that your friends and relatives can find you on the network, but just toggle their visibility settings so that you’re the only one who can see them.
5. Restrict your ad preferences.
Creeped out by how the ads showing up on your feed seem to mirror your search history? Head on over to your account’s Ad Preferences page and restrict or remove the ability of advertisers to display ads based on your personal information, such as your relationship status, where you work, or any of the other information that companies vaguely refer to as “other activity” (e.g., your profile characteristics like “frequent traveler,” “Gmail user,” etc).
They say data is the equivalent of fossil fuel in the 21st century, and there is some truth to that. As the world gets smaller and as we conduct more of our activities online, knowing what drives people is an invaluable tool for profitable influencers like politicians and business people alike.
It might take more than one careful person to prevent those with nefarious intentions from exploiting the sheer amount of data available on social media platforms, but there’s no harm in ensuring that they can’t get at yours either.