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How to lock down your Facebook privacy settings

Heather Parry

By Heather Parry

27 March 2018

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica revelations, in which it was revealed that data from 50 million Facebook profiles was harvested through an app and passed onto a third party, the #deletefacebook movement has really gained traction.

But what if you can’t or don’t want to delete your Facebook profile? What can you do to try and strengthen your privacy without quitting Facebook entirely?

Here’s a handy guide to how you can tighten your Facebook privacy without leaving the platform.

Delete your apps

Not your apps on your phone, but your apps within Facebook. If you’ve ever played a game or a quiz on Facebook, you’ve likely given an app permission to access your Facebook profile—and, as the Cambridge Analytica case revealed, prior to 2015 you might have been granting them access to your friends’ profiles too.

Even if you aren’t a fan or games or quizzes, you’ve likely allowed one app or another to access your information. To find out, click the arrow at the top right of your Facebook homepage and select Settings, then Apps.

Even if you don’t have any apps in your Game and App Notifications pane, you’ll likely have numerous apps on your Logged in with Facebook section. Delete all the ones you don’t need or use. Make sure any that you leave only have access to what they need to access; these will probably say “Only Me” underneath. If you need to change what these apps have access to, click the pencil button beside them.

Manage your ads

Back on the Settings page, click the Ads button. There are two settings to deal with here: Ads based on your use of websites and apps and Ads on apps and websites outside the Facebook Companies. Turn both of these settings to Off. Then go to Ads with your social actions and change the setting to None.

If you scroll up, you’ll see a large panel called Your Interests. This is what Facebook uses to target you with ads. You can remove all the selections here by clicking on the X in the right hand corner or each. It’s best to remove all.

Note that this will not stop the rest of the web, or even Facebook, from tracking what you do online and stalking you for advertising reasons. Unfortuantely this is the state of the web as we know it.

Cull your friends list

Are there some names on your friends list that you don’t recognise? People you can’t recall ever adding? People that you haven’t talked to in a decade and likely will never talk to?

Though it’s nice to think that one day you’ll have a profound moment of connection with that dude you met at a party in Berlin on your gap year back in 2010, it’s most likely not going to happen—and you’re realistically just giving access to your social profile to a ton of people you barely even know. If you’d walk past them on the street without saying hello, delete them. In fact, delete all the contacts you can and keep only the ones you really need.

But wait! We’re not done! You can control what people see even if you are still their friend. Click on Settings and then Privacy. From here, you can decide and edit who sees your posts, your friend requests, your friends list and perhaps most importantly, who can search for you via your contact details on Facebook, and whether or not your Facebook profile can be listed on search engines like Google.

Go to Timeline and Tagging and you can decide whether to review anything you’re tagged in before it appears on your profile and more. Take time over this whole section, and review every setting within.

Download your Facebook data

Yes, Facebook allows you to do this—and it’s easy.

Click on Settings and then click on General Account Settings. At the very bottom, there’ll be an option to Download a copy of your Facebook data. Facebook will email this to you within an hour, and it’ll make for semi-terrifying reading, as they’re likely to have a lot more of your information than you expect, including details of phone calls and messages from your device, not from your Facebook app. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Remember that there’s always a chance of your data being misused

Unfortunately, if we engage with platforms like Facebook, we have to accept that part of that engagement involves giving access to our information. This is the payoff for most social media platforms.

However, one thing is improving: Awareness of just how much of our data we give up.

Ultimately, only you can decide whether the payoff is worth it.

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