The question of handling user data with Facebook is nothing new. Users and privacy groups have been concerned with how Facebook utilizes user data for a long time. This past week, it has become abundantly clear that Facebook is not putting enough emphasis on handling and protecting user data. All this comes after revelations that Facebook data was used to target users with disinformation.
From a high level, a Russian-American professor basically collected 50 million Facebook user records under the guise of academic reasons. This individual was not authorized to take that many records. Facebook didn’t monitor the request close enough and the professor was allowed to keep collecting more and more user records; detailed user records.
When Facebook finally realized the extent of what had happened, they asked for the information to be deleted, but they never followed up. The 3rd party was allowed to keep the data. In addition, the 50 million Facebook user records that were collected were passed on to a 3rd party there was using the data for the presidential campaign for Donald Trump. Having detailed information about what users like and dislike, is like having a real-time heartbeat monitor on voters and knowing exactly what amount of disinformation needs to be distributed in that area to sway votes.
This article is not to talk about politics or campaigns, but it does expose that Facebook did not safeguard user data and allowed it to be used for less than respectable uses. Facebook’s only product is the users that use Facebook. Every time someone posts a new article on Facebook, shares an article, shares location, shares pretty much anything; Facebook uses that to identify the person, profile them and determine what they like and dislike. They utilize this information to get to the advertisers.
I think one of the reasons that Facebook hasn’t been more forthcoming about what happened about this leaked information is that they realize what they did was extremely wrong, reckless and has some very extenuating and damaging consequences for them.
It’s interesting that Facebook would openly just offer a Russian-American professor access to such a great amount of user information without some sort of permission from the individual users. Even more so, Facebook failed to monitor access or limit the professor’s data mining activities to the reported 250,000 users.
Every time a Facebook user wants a website, an application or a game to interact with Facebook, users have to agree to share X amount of information. Users have to agree to this arbitrary question, actually very vague, question two allow Facebook to access X service. But the bigger question is what exactly is the user giving away on their Facebook profile to this X service. Facebook doesn’t clearly say, so it’s up to the user to go digging through Facebook’s website settings to find all the options for application permissions; what you’re getting those applications permissions to do.
This is really an eye-opening experience for some who use Facebook on a regular basis. They may not realize that Facebook is sharing this much information with third parties that really don’t have any need to have that level of information. If Facebook is one of those websites/services you want to keep using, you may want to look into reviewing your privacy settings and reviewing your application permissions.
Checking Your Privacy settings
To check your own Facebook application permissions, you would go to Facebook.com. In the top right-hand corner of the Facebook page, you see a down arrow, you click on that and you see the option for ‘settings’. And then on the left-hand side of the screen, you’ll see the option for ‘privacy’.
Here are your privacy settings.
My recommendation would be to go through each one of the settings one by one and determine for yourself how much access you want to give to Facebook or to outside parties.
Checking Your Application permissions
Again, go to Facebook settings (as mentioned above).
On the left-hand side of the settings page, you’ll see the option for ‘apps’.
Here’s the application setting page. Depending on how long you’ve used Facebook and how many applications you’ve ever used, there could be a lot of applications that are connected to Facebook, using your profile information.
Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t have an option to select all and disconnect all applications. If you’re lucky, you only have a few applications and you can delete those ones by one. If you have a lot of applications on Facebook, you’re going to find this a process tedious.
Considering the level of involvement of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, and the stolen Facebook user information, I would suspect that new rules and regulations gonna be put in place for websites who have an abundance of private user information.
But those of the two quick ways to look at your privacy and your application settings on Facebook, to find out who has access to you and your data.