Cambridge Analytica has been banned from Facebook after the world’s largest social network accused the data mining and analytics company of mishandling the data of over 50 million users, an accusation that the firm denies. Facebook has launched a forensic audit of Cambridge Analytica’s “servers and systems” as part of “a comprehensive internal and external review.”
Naturally, this explosive story has this raised questions about how Facebook handles and shares its users’ data.
So what does this mean for you? Is your mind being warped by Facebook advertising, forcing you to vote for people and buy things you’d normally despise? Probably not, but who knows?
If you’re reading this, you’re probably well aware of the many, many, many ways Facebook can track you and use that information help its advertisers’ target you. If this makes you uncomfortable, you can choose to not use the site, of course.
But given how intertwined in our lives Facebook and the sites it has acquired, including Instagram and WhatsApp, have become, you may not consider this an option. And for some people and even some countries, Facebook is the internet.
Does that mean your only option is ignoring any manipulation that you might have to endure as the “product” Facebook sells to its advertisers? Maybe you believe “Advertising is not coercive; people are smarter than that,” as Cambridge Analytica tweeted in its defense. But if that’s true corporations have wasted trillions of dollars on advertising.
If you don’t want to quit the site or give in to the big data mind machine, there is a third option: You can dramatically limit Facebook’s access to you and your life.
Sean Sullivan, F-Secure Security Advisor, laid out three relatively simple steps he takes that keep him from seeing nearly all advertising on Facebook to Yle. Since this advice is encrypted in Finnish, we thought we’d share it with you here.
1. Do not reveal too much.
Sean doesn’t give Facebook his phone number and he doesn’t think you should either. (Check if you’re sharing your number by going to your profile> About > Contact and Basic Info. )Your phone number can connect the data the site collects to other information captured about you offline. He also suggests not sharing the name of your employer or schools you’ve attended.
2. Block your friends from sharing your data.
First, lock down your Privacy settings do that only “Friends” can see your future posts. (You can also hide your Friends List and keep your profile off search engines on this page.) But even if you lock down your Privacy settings, your friends can share your data unless you go to your “Settings” and click on “Apps“. There you will see “Apps Others Use”. Click on “Edit” and make sure no boxes are clicked.
3. Check your ad preferences and keep reminding Facebook you don’t want to see ads.
Bookmark Facebook’s Ad Preferences page and click on the X in the upper right corner of every box representing any interest or advertiser you are shown until there are none.
You can also limit which information Facebook uses to advertise to you and set your Ad Settings. You can tell Facebook can’t market to you based on the websites or apps you use and make sure Facebook can’t use your preferences off the site or use your “social actions” in an ad. Seriously, check this page. Then whenever you see any sort of ad, click on the right corner and click “Hide ad” to see fewer ads like this.
And there’s one last way to avoid being targeted, erase your “likes”:
So… "psycographics" is largely a load of hogwash (at least based on the results I've seen) – but even so, if you want to avoid being targeted, delete your likes. (And/or other activity, such as search history.) Where? Facebook > Activity Log > Likes and Reactions pic.twitter.com/Z6nczCPS1h
— Sean Sullivan (@5ean5ullivan) March 21, 2018
Yes, this is a like a part-time job and it doesn’t even cover the things you should do to secure your Facebook account. But given that immersion into a online social network is a brand new phenomenon in the human experience, we’re all human guinea pigs. And we won’t know the results of this experiment for decades.
Sean has figured out a way to use Facebook that mostly eliminates any worries about how the site is playing with his mind. You can too.