How to Protect Your Facebook Data (Without Deleting Facebook)

April 4, 2018

Do you want to be better protect your Facebook data against mining like the recent Cambridge Analytica breach, but aren't quite ready to #deletefacebook just yet?

Well, this article should help. There are some settings you can change to find that compromise between still being able to enjoy Facebook and protecting your data.

How to control who sees your posts

Time and time again I see questions asked about visibility and public posts. Who can see what you post on Facebook? Let’s talk about some of these privacy settings and what they mean.

Start by clicking the triangle on the top right-hand side of any Facebook page, and go into settings:

From here, click Privacy.

Here, you can set who can see your future posts. You can set it to Friends, Friends of Friends, etc. Set it to what you are comfortable with. You can even set this new value to old posts by clicking “Limit Past Posts” to lock down older posts.

How to control what people publish on your timeline

Ever get people tagging you in posts you don’t like, and yet it still appears in your timeline? You can change that so your friends won't be able to post on your timeline without your knowledge or approval.

In that same settings page, click on Timeline and Tagging on the left.

Here, you can specify who can post to your timeline. You can also specify whether or not you want to review anything you’ve been tagged in BEFORE the post is visible on your timeline.

How to stop your data from being shared with entities aside from Facebook

Facebook will collect data on you if you use it. But, you can prevent other entities from collecting Facebook data from you as well.

To do that, in the same settings menu click on “Apps” turn off Apps, Websites and Games. You won’t be able to add apps or play games on Facebook anymore. You also won’t be able to use your Facebook login on any external sites, such as Pinterest or Spotify.

How to eliminate Facebook itself from getting (some) data from you

If you aren’t comfortable making such a big leap, you can at least go into to your Profile and update your About section to remove some public info.

Go back to your Profile, change to the About tab, and — if you hover your mouse over the bottom of the info screen — you’ll see a link to edit your contact and basic info. This is where you can remove any data if you are having second thoughts about oversharing. Like your hometown, or your religious or political affiliation.

How to stop Facebook from serving you targeted ads

Speaking of political and religious affiliation, Facebook is making a profile of you and using it to feed you ads and show you other content. You can tell Facebook you no longer want that.

To do that, go back into Settings and click on Ads on the left.

Under “Ad Settings”, you can tell Facebook not to serve you ads based on your website surfing. Have you ever visited a page on Amazon on dog food, or did a web search for a good brand of dog food recommendation, and noticed that soon after that, Facebook started serving you ads for that very product? Or similar products?

This is that setting.

How to see the data Facebook has on you

Want to know what Facebook thinks they know about you? Well, you can do that too.

In that same Ads page, click on Your Information. Here is a virtual treasure trove of information about you that Facebook has gleaned, and uses to serve you ads and other content it thinks you may be interested in.

Clicking the About You tab will yield basics like your employer, relationship status, where you live and so on. The Your Categories tab is far more sinister, containing your political status, whether you are a frequent traveler, commuter, ex-pat, technology early adopter, stay-at-home mom, work-from-home employee, work in the arts, etc.

You can click the “X” on any of these categories to remove them from being associated with you.

Knowing that these settings are here is half the battle. Take some time and navigate through Facebook’s Settings screen to get to know all your options.

You may not want to delete Facebook just yet, but you can go into the battle prepared.

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