You wouldn’t trust a friend who told your secrets to others, would you? So why do you trust Facebook? This social media giant knows more information about you than the creepiest stalker could possibly hope for. To make matters worse, they’ve failed to protect your data over and over again! It’s time to find out what Facebook really knows about you and take your privacy back.
There’s a lot of personal information you’ve given to Facebook voluntarily. In the ‘About You’ section, you can add everything from your current relationship status and your favorite quotes to very personal information like your birth date, phone number, and home address. This data is a gold mine for Facebook (as well as hackers and stalkers) as it lays the foundations of your user profile.
Facebook was one of the first companies to develop facial recognition technology. The company has previously been criticized for using it without users’ consent. Since then, Facebook has allowed its users to opt out of this feature. (You can do this by going to Settings > Face recognition.) However, they do not indicate what happens with this data once you opt out. Facebook might continue to store your facial template on their servers.
The mobile app tracks your location and even creates a location timeline. (You can see it by going to Settings > Location > View your location history.) The company claims that your location history is private, but knowing how many times Facebook has leaked customers’ data, can you really trust it?
You can stop Facebook from tracking your location and delete your history by:
Facebook also monitors what devices you’ve used, their IP addresses, and where you’ve logged in. You can find and delete this information by going to Settings > Security and Login. If you’ve never stumbled across this page before, you will see all the devices you’ve ever used to log into Facebook since you created your account.
If you’ve ever paid for anything through Facebook, like game subscriptions, events tickets or Facebook advertising, it will hold this information and your credit card details too. You can see your payment history by going to Settings > Payments.
Facebook also has access to every call you’ve made and every message you’ve sent via Messenger. Messenger does offer end-to-end encryption, but few people know about this feature as it’s slightly hidden and is off by default. To send encrypted messages, select Secret or toggle the lock icon in the upper right-hand corner before starting a conversation in Messenger. Even if the feature is on, however, Facebook still tracks who you talk to and how often.
When installing the Facebook or Messenger apps on your phone, you probably gave Facebook permission to access your phone’s contact list. You can see who’s numbers Facebook has (and delete them) by clicking here. To stop Facebook from automatically syncing your new and updated contacts, open the Facebook mobile app and go to Settings > Personal information > Upload contacts.
98% of Facebook’s profit comes from targeted ads, so Facebook wants to collect as much information about you as possible. You can see the things Facebook thinks interest you by going to your Settings > Ads > Your Interests. These are derived from your overall Facebook engagement and activity – the pages you liked, events you attended, and ads you clicked on.
Your interests can range from music and movies to religion and political views. Some guesses can be very accurate to the point of being creepy.
Either way, the more accurate this information is, the more specific ads Facebook can serve you and get more revenue. However, problems arise when this psychological profile ends up in the wrong hands (for example, in the Cambridge Analytica scandal). It can be used against you to change your opinion or manipulate you into doing things you may not have wanted to do.
Underneath Your interests you’ll also come across the Advertisers and Businesses tab. Here you can see all the companies that in the past 7 days have uploaded your contact information (typically your email address or your phone number) onto Facebook and used it for marketing purposes. Facebook has matched these details with your profile and, as a result, served you their ads.
Facebook is integrated into a lot of other platforms and apps, which is convenient as you can log into them with one click. However, have you ever read their Terms & Conditions? Do you know what information those apps pull from your profile? You might have even allowed some of them to access your camera and microphone. You can change and revoke access to these apps by going to Settings > Apps and Websites and then delving into each app individually.
The social network keeps a log of every step you’ve taken from the moment you created your account, including:
You can download a copy of all the data Facebook has collected about you by following these steps (preferably on a desktop or laptop device):
It might take several days for Facebook to create your archive. They will send you a message once it’s ready.
No company should have this much information about you – especially not a social media giant known for data mining and a laid-back approach towards cybersecurity. In the last 2 years, Facebook has:
Facebook has slipped up over and over again, and many say they haven’t made any significant changes to protect their customers’ data and regain their trust. As a result, many Facebook users are fleeing the platform. Indeed, Facebook makes it very difficult to make your profile more private (For example, there’s no option to delete your old photos or posts all at once).
Read more on how to delete Facebook account temporarily or for good. If you are not yet ready for the latter, here are a few tips to follow:
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