In the last week, Facebook has come under some very harsh criticism from lawmakers (more than usual) after the New York Times and others reported that a company called Cambridge Analytica gained access to the private information of more than 50 million Facebook profiles which it analysed and used to develop strategies during the Trump campaign in 2016.
If this all sounds messy, you’re right. It is. Read the NYT for much more information on the developing story.
What’s most important for you right now is to take stock of what information you’ve maybe unwillingly given away to third-party apps on Facebook.
Usually when you use Facebook to sign into something you get a box that asks for friend info that promises ‘wont’ ever post to your page’ – we’ve all seen it. This is fine for a lot of people and they accept without thinking twice.
The problem is some of those apps are getting far more private information about you than you think, and this is really dangerous considering we now know that a company paid for that information and used it illegally.
You might think the only way to solve this issue is to just leave Facebook and never use your phone again.
Thankfully this isn’t the case.
What do I do then?
This is actually the easy part. There are some simple steps you can take to remove or edit the info companies have on you.
First what you need to do is head to your Facebook settings.
Once there you need to find Apps and from there you’ll see a big list of all the apps you’re ‘logged into with Facebook’.
If you’re like me, the list will mostly be a list of apps and services you haven’t used in years and some you’ve never even heard of. Who knows what you could be sharing.
Depending on the list, this might take a while but what you want to do is hover over each item and either click the pencil icon to edit or the x icon to delete the app. Editing allows you to see and change what the app is sharing about you with Facebook and deleting removes it from being used any further.
However, this doesn’t mean you data magically disappears from a company’s servers. It’s likely the data remains and you’ll need to contact the developer directly and ask your information be removed specifically.
You can do this in an app’s settings page. On the bottom right-hand corner of the settings window, click on the report app link. Choose, I want to send my own message to the developer. There, you can ask them to remove any data they may have stored though this isn’t guaranteed to happen.
What to do from now on
One thing to always remember is to make sure you really check what an app is getting access to when you click that ‘approve’ button. It’s often more than you’d be comfortable with though that isn’t to say they all do this.
It also can’t ever hurt to poke around in your privacy settings in other social apps and platforms to make sure your private information is up for grabs on the internet.