The fallout from the Cambridge Analytica story continues, with tech firms scrambling to persuade it’s users their data is safe, whilst share prices continue to tumble.
Central to the story is how the data from 50 million Facebook users was used to target digital political advertising during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Many outlets describe it as a hack, which isn’t true. All the information gathered by CA was freely given by Facebook users, under Facebook’s terms.
But Facebook aren’t the only ones hoovering up a ton of data on you. Google, Twitter, SnapChat etc all rely on gathering as much data as they can in order to make money off it.
So What Data does Facebook hold on you?
You can download all data Facebook has on you by going into your settings (https://www.facebook.com/settings) and clicking on “Download a copy of your Facebook data.”
Interestingly, Facebook doesn’t have a dedicated url for this action i.e. something like facebook.com/downloadmydata. Whether this is intentional or not I don’t know.
So if like most people, you use Facebook Messenger as a quick way to keep in touch, you may want to do a good clear out.
Chrome users can use the Facebook – Delete All Messages extension.
1. Optionally move messages that you wish to keep to the Archive.
2. If you did not archive any messages, skip this step.
Otherwise you MUST refresh the page and relaunch the extension.
3. Go to the messages you wish to delete.
4. Click Begin Deletion.
5. If it does not work, use Compatibility Mode.
6. If some messages are not deleted, refresh and repeat.
7. Exit when you are finished.
You may have filled in those fun personality tests, IQ tests or played Scrabble online but once again, by doing so, you’ve given Facebook permission to share much of your data with a third party.
See what Games you’ve given permission to by visiting: https://www.facebook.com/games/manage
Similarly with Apps, you’ve once again granted permission to share your data.
Find out what third party Apps you’ve signed into: https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=applications
When you first joined Facebook it is highly probable you uploaded your phonebook/contact list in order to connect with friends. I know I did back in 2009. In my case there was over 1,900 contacts that had been uploaded. Android and iOS users are given the option to “sync” contacts. Which essentially means your device will continue to share your contacts with Facebook unless you manually stop it.
You can check (and delete) your uploaded contacts here: https://www.facebook.com/invite_history.php
So What Data does Google hold on you?
The likelihood is that you use Google or it’s products across a number of your devices. You might use Gmail for email, YouTube to watch videos, Google to search for various things….They have created a monopoly over online content and data sharing, and by making easy to use products; they have made us lazy and complicit.
While you might routinely clear your browser history if you use Chrome, Firefox or Safari, Google still stores extensive search data. Find out what Search history is held on you by visiting: www.google.com/history/
Click the Settings icon, then Remove items, and delete your history from the “beginning of time”.
Google tracks your movements, both when you use Google Maps and when you don’t. Find out what location data they have stored by visiting: maps.google.com/locationhistory
You can click on the not so easy to find “delete all history” button to remove all data.
Similar to the CA scandal, questions have arisen as to what data is shared (by the user) to third parties.
Google has “conveniently” allowed you easy access to websites using your Google data. Visit: security.google.com/settings/security/permissions and delete access to third parties you no longer wish to share your data with.
You can do the nuclear option and block all online advertising by install browser add-ons such as Ghostery or Ad Block.
You can also make sure you Opt-Out of interest based advertising on the Google platform.
Visit: www.google.com/settings/ads/, scroll down to Opt out settings and select Opt out of interest-based ads on Google or Opt out of interest-based Google Ads Across the Web.
If you are a Google Chrome user, or you have any Google account (Gmail, YouTube or otherwise) you can log in and get a full break down of what data is being held, what data you are sharing, what privacy settings are in place etc.
Vist here: https://myaccount.google.com
You can get a full break down of your Google Activity here: https://myactivity.google.com/myactivity
General Online Advertising
You can opt to not receive behavioural based advertising through the link below. However it is a cookie based system so requires you to set it on each individual device you use. Should you delete your cookies, as I do routinely, you will need to opt-out again using the link.
Better Online Privacy Options
So now that you’ve become aware of all the data you have been blindly giving away, what other options are there to protect your privacy?
If you really want to up the security and privacy stakes you could move full across to Tor Browser. You have probably heard about Tor on various media outlets, particularly in relation to the Dark Web, and the sales of narcotics, weapons etc.
But Tor is many things to many people and for the regular user it is just a tighter, tracker free browser.
It can be a little bit trickier to set up but once you are up and running it is fairly easy to use.