Facebook Security Settings for the Paranoid

I’m only slightly joking with the title of this blog post, given that the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal involving the accessing of personal information of roughly 50 million Facebook users.  What’s concerning is that the data from those people was gathered after only 300,000 people took a survey on Facebook.  The survey then gathered information from the friends list of those people. There are two issues here.  Firstly we need to be careful about what information we allow third party apps to gather on us. Secondly we need to worry about what information our friends are unwittingly giving up about us. 

I have to admit that I’ve been rather slack of late with what third party apps I’ll let access my Facebook profile, so I decided to dig into settings a bit, and see what was being gathered, and by what apps. I was shocked to see how many apps had requested my data.  Some I remembered, some I had no idea what they were.  What’s worse, when I checked to see what data I was sharing, I found that a worrying number had access to rather more data than I was comfortable sharing.

So, what’s a person to do about this? Here’s a step by step guide to how I stopped sharing so much data with every Tom, Dick and Harry that wanted it:

  1. Click on the arrow at the top right of the Facebook page (if you’re like me, you probably don’t remember that this is a menu)
    Facebook Menu
  2. Click on “Settings”
  3. On the setting page, click on “Apps” on the left hand side of the page.  Be surprised at how many apps have asked for your data.
  4. If you move your mouse over each app, you’ll get a pencil and a cross showing.  Click the cross to delete the app, click the pencil to see what data you’re sharing.  Hopefully it’s only your public profile information, but I had a number that asked for more, and that I had allowed access to.
  5. My personal recommendation is that if you don’t recognise the name of the app, or it’s not something you use regularly to post things to Facebook (like 500px and Flickr for me), then simply delete it.

That’s the first problem dealt with, now we need to ensure our friends don’t give away our information without realising it.  Underneath the Logged in section there is a setting for controlling what information your friends’ apps can access:

Click edit, turn everything off, then click save:

Now you can go back to Facebook, resting slightly easier about how secure your personal data is.  Of course, if you keep letting apps access your data, then it would pay to repeat this every so often.  It’s also important that by doing the above all you’ve done is stopped third parties from accessing your data. If they already have it, then this hasn’t deleted it from them.

I can only imagine how hard it would be to get the various third parties that have accessed my data to delete it, so I didn’t bother. I’m taking that as a rather important lesson on how important it is to be vigilant about who you share data with.

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