Wednesday 25 April 2018

Three easy ways to keep the internet pirates from lifting your data treasure

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Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Who’d a thunk it? Political operatives mining Facebook for as much of our personal preferences as they can find?

Shocking, eh?

The bad news is that, as Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner says today, there really isn’t that much by way of legislation to prevent political targeting online.

The good news is that there is a reasonable amount you can do to stop it affecting you and your Facebook friends.

Here are three simple things you can do on your phone, tablet or PC:

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 Cambridge Analytica case was how an app used by 270,000 people was able to target 50m people. This happened because Facebook’s rules at the time were looser. Indeed, the Irish Data Protection Commissioner’s office claims 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 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 methods of making your presence 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. 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.

Online Editors

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