Ask Adrian: Our tech editor tackles your trickiest technology problems
Q The only social media I really use is Facebook. But I'm concerned that my data is going to be used improperly. I don't want to quit, just minimise the possible damage and know what are the dangerous things to do. Is there something I should be doing right away?
A There's certainly quite a bit you can do to immediately check what advertisers and other entities know about you. (You can also download all the information that Facebook has on you in the settings, if you're really concerned.) Here are three measures to look at straight away:
1) Switch off the ability of apps to see your personal information when your friends use those apps
One of the underlying issues with the notorious Cambridge Analytica case last month was how an app used by 270,000 people was able to target 50 million people. This happened because Facebook's rules at the time were looser than they are now. Indeed, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner's office claims that its guidance was one of the factors that resulted in tighter rules.
But apps (for which, read commercial companies looking for a way of making money) can still glean information about you from your friends' use of them. One way of limiting this is to go to 'settings' and then 'apps'. You should then see an option called 'apps others use'. It will remind you that "people on Facebook who can see your information can bring it with them when they use apps". And it will invite you to untick boxes such as 'education', 'activities', 'current city' and 'family and relationships'.
You also have a more forceful option, which is to 'turn off all Platform apps' in settings. This prevents apps and websites getting other categories of information on you, such as your friend list or gender. (However, this means you can't use those apps or games.)
2) Reconsider the apps you use your Facebook account as a password for
One of the easiest, laziest ways to sign up for a variety of services online is to use your Facebook account as a sort of super-password. This goes for all sorts of apps, from Facebook-owned services such as Instagram and WhatsApp to dating sites such as Tinder. But each of these services usually gathers lots of personal information about you when you do this. And most of us end up with dozens, or maybe hundreds of apps and services connected to us in this way. In 'app settings', you'll see all the apps you've connected to your Facebook account. You can go through them to block them from getting much of the personal information they probably have access to.
3) Limit the ability of ads from any company or political organisation to categorise you and follow you around the internet
We've all had the experience of stuff we've looked at on Facebook haunting us around other internet websites and vice versa.
Sadly, there's no way of cutting out ads from Facebook altogether. But there are definite methods of making your presence there less attractive to political targeters and certain advertisers. In 'settings', tap or click 'ads'. You'll see all sorts of options here to severely limit your identifiable profile online. For example, go into 'your information' and you can cross off all of the categories that Facebook has labelled you as being interested in (based on your "activity"). Now go to the next option called 'ad settings'. This lets you switch off ads based on your use of apps and websites. In other words, you won't be tracked as much.
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