Facebook is a horrifying den of trolling, hyperbole, and toxicity. Ben Kenobi would likely call it a hive of scum and villainy. In short, Facebook is the worst. The list of reasons to detest Facebook are legion and well-trodden. Yet, recently there is a new outrage du jour.
Cambridge Analytica has reportedly collected data on as many as 87 million Facebook users which it used to target ads for various political candidates including Donald Trump in the 2016 election. According to most people in the media, they cracked the code on mind control and were able to make people vote for the Donald.
How did they do this? Whenever you use Facebook to login to an app or service (like those personality quizzes), that app gets access to some of your data. How much access is determined by what permissions the app requests. Some apps don’t request any of your personal information, some apps get access to everything you put on Facebook (including the things you have set to only be seen by you).
Cambridge Analytica took advantage of this system. They partnered with the developer of a personality quiz and scraped all of the data that quiz takers gave to the maker of the quiz. What kind of information did they get? Theoretically, they got your name, date of birth, work history, education history, favorite TV shows, favorite books, favorite movies, family members, friends, political views, photos, likes, comments, everything you have ever posted, and much more.
However, it’s wrong to think that they got all this information by ‘stealing’ it. Facebook users voluntarily gave all of this information to them. Nothing Cambridge Analytica did violates Facebook’s terms of service. In fact, nothing they did was even unprecedented. The Obama campaign used the same data mining tactics in 2008 and 2012.
With all of that said, Facebook is still the worst. There are dozens of reasons you shouldn’t use Facebook. But I understand that just deleting your Facebook account isn’t terribly practical. So I wanted to highlight some things you can do to reduce your exposer to the blight.
Turn Off Facebook’s App Platform
Facebook’s app platform is the biggest privacy hole that you probably didn’t know existed. When you log into an app or service, they get access to a massive amount of your data. Disabling the entire platform is the best way to plug that hole.
You can do this by opening Facebook (on a desktop) clicking on the ▼ icon in the top right corner > settings > apps > “apps, websites and games” > edit > turn off.
Review the apps connected to your account
If you aren’t willing to completely disable the app platform, then you should review all of the apps that are connected to your Facebook account and delete any that you don’t use.
To see all the apps connected to your account, open Facebook (on a desktop) and click on the ▼ icon in the top right corner > settings > apps.
Delete the Facebook App
I can’t even begin to explain how horrifying the Facebook mobile app is. Don’t believe me? Open your battery settings and I will wager that Facebook is one of the heaviest consumers of your battery life even if you don’t use it much. Not only does the app eat your battery, it gives Facebook hooks into your data at a very deep level. Through the app, Facebook is able to access your location, contacts, installed apps, microphone, camera, and schedule (and that’s just what they admit to accessing).
If you delete the app but still want to use Facebook, you have options. You can add the Facebook mobile website to your home screen by going to Facebook and clicking share > add to home screen > add.
You should always be wary of free services. A good rule of thumb is that if you aren’t paying for a service, you’re not the customer, you’re the product. Odds are, if you can’t identify a business model, the model is to sell your data to advertisers.