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Once again Facebook has found itself involved in yet another gigantic controversy, related to how it is rambling, multi-billion person social network that has been abused by bad actors. This time the culprit being Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that has been used by President Donald Trump’s campaign during the US election of 2016 so as to target election ads on Facebook. However, it has turned out the Cambridge Analytica has gone on to misuse the user data of nearly 50 million Facebook users through its affiliated behavior research firm Strategic Communication Laboratories, which has gone ahead and violated the Facebook’s terms of service by acquiring data from the third-party app, and has been reportedly lying about when the data was deleted and how it had been used.

The announcement was recently made, and reports from The New York Times and The Guardian has featured claims from former Cambridge Analytica employee and whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who informed the world that the data formed the very foundation of the firm’s election toolset. Within a few days of this report coming in front of the world, it has formed a question on the entirety of Facebook’s ad platform, the data collection practices of its API-using the third-party services, along with the company’s commitment to user privacy and policing of its platform. However, Facebook has suspended Cambridge Analytica and Strategic Communication Laboratories. The fallout from the two firms’ actions and Facebook’s weak attempts in order to make sure that the data was not misused has immediately spread across the globe. The condemnation from politicians and tech critics has forced Facebook to hire a digital forensics team in order to investigate the situation.

Hence, now is a good time to remind you that instead of deleting your Facebook account forever, there are some precautions that you can take, in order to protect your privacy, making use of Facebook as a utility without compromising on your personal data. While a single user will not be able to prevent companies such as the Cambridge Analytical from lying to the public, and to Facebook, about where the data came from and how it is being used. But, The Verge informs us that we can ensure that a significant part of your data is never out there, in the first place. Read on to find out how this is possible.

1.Turn off location

Location data is one of the most sensitive data that you can allow the third party app or services. With the location data, companies will be able to know your whereabouts, from where you are going to where you stay, where you work and the places that you frequently visit. For Facebook this information is invaluable to advertisers, and it is a jump in the darkness for users who do not understand or realize when an app will be able to access this particular data.

However, it is still unknown if this is the type of data that the trove Cambridge Analytica had access to or not, it is still quite a sensitive information, that you should only give out when you this that the core service that you are getting is worth the very exchange. For example, it makes complete sense for you to allow Google Maps, to access your location, but it does not make any sense in allowing any third-party such information, allowing them access to your data.

It is really important for you to remember that the ‘Location Data’ is the most sensitive personal information that you share online.

To turn off this setting on iOS, go to Setting, scroll down and under the ‘Privacy’ general tab, click on Location Services. From here, you will be able to disable this particular feature completely and toggle it on, off and only while using a piece of software on an app-by-app basis.

Now, scroll down to Facebook, and switch it to either “While using the app” or “Never” There is no reason to allow Facebook access to your location, hence make sure that you never leave it to “Always.’

To turn off this setting on Android, go to “Android Settings,” Click on “Location.” From here you will be able to toggle Facebook’s access to off from on.

2.Unlink Third-party questionable apps

All those who have been using Facebook for a long time must have allowed access to your third-party data and services, without thinking twice about how the data is being used or where the data goes. In case of the Cambridge Analytica, it was the harmless Facebook app known as thisisyourdigitallife,” which claimed that it would be able to predict the aspects of the user’s personality, and it was created by Cambridge Psychology Professor Aleksandr Kogan. This app had gone on to drain 270,000 people’s user data, all those who had downloaded it and has signed in using Facebook.  The data included where these people lived, who are their friends and it might have also gone on to inform about the election Ad targeting for Trump’s presidential campaign after Kogan handed the data over to Strategic Communication Laboratories, violating Facebook’s TOS while doing so.

In order to prevent your user data from helping to gain information about a campaign to elect someone like Donald Trump; a disturbing disclaimer which came with using Facebook in 2018. Immediately head to the “Apps” section on your Facebook settings (This is best done via the desktop version, however, you can also do it via a mobile.) On the top of this page, you will be able to view the exact number of app that you have had logged on to till date, using Facebook. The exact number of app that I have used since I am on Facebook for 8 years is 130. Among the included services with access to my personal information, are several defunct or unpopular app, such as Viber and  Voxer, along with a number of apps, which I have never heard off, such as ‘The Fun Appz’ or ‘testony.com.’ It is a large number of accesses granted to numerous software backlogs, and most likely, you all are also facing the same situation.

Hence, the simplest way in which you will be able to protect your personal data and yourself in such a situation is to scroll all the way to the bottom of the “Apps Websites and Plugins” square, click edit and turn off the API access of all the third-party. Maybe some of you use your Facebook login, for a service such as Airbnb or Lyft or other ethical products. In that case, you check your entire app list and disable access from any questionable, non-operational or superfluous services. You can also go on to edit the numerous info specific apps can access and who on Facebook will be able to view that you are or you have used that app, along with this, you can also edit and check the notification settings for the software.

3.Limit the sharing settings

This is most probably the most complicated of all Facebook’s privacy and security customization options, and it requires several careful calibrations so as to ensure that you have a setup that is perfect for you. It is best to do this setting on the desktop and not on the mobile app, as it is easier to review all the information in a larger display all at once, then on the small screen of your smartphone. To do so, you first need to click on the downward-facing triangle, which is available right next to the question mark icon available on the upper right-hand side of facebook.com. Form her to “Settings” option available at the bottom of the page. Now go and click on “Privacy” which is available on the lefthand side column.

It is here that you decide how and what you share on Facebook gets propagated throughout the platform and who and to what extent a stranger can reach out to use your personal data. However, it is best if you go on to change the option for “Who can see your future posts?” to “friends only.” Facebook now includes an option “limit past posts” hence every post across your Facebook history will go on to be restricted to “friends only” in case if it was earlier shared with everyone or just friends of friends.

You can also decide how people will go on to find you on the Facebook platform and contact you. It is here that you will be able to edit settings for who will be able to send you friend requests, and who will be able to view your friend list, and whether your profile will show up in the search engine and whether people will be able to find you using your phone number or your email ID. In this case, it is, however, best, if you are really trying to limit the amount of data you have provided, to change everything to “Only me,” “friends,” or friends of friends” as a last resort. You can also go on to disable the search engines outside Facebook from linking to your profile, which I believe is a smart move.

Just below the “Privacy” section, you will find the “Timeline and Tagging” option, which controls who will be able to post what on your profile, and who will be able to tag you in pictures. It is, however, best to limit everything to “friends” or “only me” where appropriate. It is also recommended that you ensure that you would turn on the settings for reviewing tags before they appear on your timeline.

Another lesser-known setting on Facebook is its settings panel which is in the same cluster of categories with privacy and timeline settings and it is known as “Facial Recognition.” If you do not want Facebook to build a profile of your face data, recognizing you in every available photos and video that people post, then you need to turn this off too.

4.Removing personal information and restricting Ad preferences

The final step is to edit the “About me” section, so as to limit the amount of information that you are sharing on Facebook, regardless of where you are allowing access of third-party apps or services. In order to do so, click on the question mark icon available at the upper right-hand side of the page and click on “Privacy Checkup.”

After you finish the first step of this process, go the second one, where at the bottom of the page you will have the option of About Page. From here, you will be able to edit or delete all information that you have ever shared of Facebook, from your work and education history to where you have lived to your contact as well certain basic information such as your mobile number and your email ID.

Yes, you can, of course, keep the entire information intact on Facebook, just limit the maximum information as visible only to you. If however, you want to completely remove this information from Facebook, then you need to remove it completely. Removing all the information will make it harder for you to be found on Facebook, but then again, this is the exact point of this particular exercise, a way for you to keep in touch with your old friends or to use Facebook Messenger. You can easily remove your entire information from your profile, except your name, gender and birthday, for which you will be able to restrict the visibility too.

In order to make sure that your profile appears the same way whether it is viewed by strangers or friends, go to the feature of “View As” this will allow you to look at your profile as it can be viewed by others. In order to find this particular option, click on the three dots available next to “View Activity Log” option on top of the cover picture, right next to edit profile box. In the drop-down menu, you will be able to find ‘View As’ which comes with the default setting of showing you the public version of your profile, with the option to look at your own profile as a specific person.

Last, but not the least, let us finally check out the Ad Preferences page. In order to remove the ability for advertisers to target ads based on your personal information. You will now be able to make restrict it so that advertisers cannot run ads base on your personal information, such as your relationship status. Your profession, or any such information, which Facebook automatically selects for you, based on your information that you have provided and the company refers to this as “other activity” which ranges from classifications such as “frequent traveller” or “Gmail user.”

Here, you will also be able to view the total list of pages that you have liked and remove the ones that you do not want to be used for advertising purpose. At the end of the page, you can switch off the ability for advertisers to base ads on your third-party user website, along with apps that realy on tracking cookies so as to inform Facebook of products that you have checked on Amazon or any other online shopping app.

Freelancing for the last 6.5 years, I have a Masters degree in English Literature. The upcoming technology both fascinates and impresses me. I have a flair and passion for writing. Reporting news from the world of technology about the latest innovations and inventions keeps me closer to my passion and interest.