With almost 1.73 billion users (backlinko 2021) a day, Facebook is the largest social media platform ever, and has almost 57% of all active internet users accessing on it at least once a month. Currently, Facebook owns a variety of applications that while appearing separate, constantly share data between one another, examples of these companies would be the popular messaging applications Messenger and Whatsapp and other social media platforms such as Instagram, and the virtual reality company Oculus VR. Facebook It goes without saying that Facebook has an inordinate amount of data on each and every single one of its users across all of their owned applications. The following section details the steps to take to reclaim some of this lost privacy when using Facebook (the other related applications have similar settings to those mentioned within this guide).
Where to begin?
The best place to start is by accessing the drop down menu located at the top of the page and selecting ‘Settings and Privacy and then ‘Privacy Checkup’, here you will see the ‘Privacy Checkup’ section illustrated in Fig 1. Here the privacy settings are available for the four features of Facebook, posts, profile, and apps and websites. The settings available within each of these will be detailed below.
Lets begin with controlling access to your posts, there are four options to select from when uploading a post to Facebook. These are public, friends, specific friends (there is also custom which is the opposite of this), and only you. Public is self-explanatory, as is friends. Specific friends allows you to select the friends you wish to see the post, while custom allows you to select who can’t. ‘Only you’ can be utilised in such a way as to turn your Facebook account into a storage location for images or notes as anything you post will only be visible to yourself and there for is private unless made otherwise. To control who can see your posts, go to the ‘Settings’ tab of the ‘Settings and Privacy’ menu. From this menu option click on ‘Privacy’ and look at ‘your activity’ (Fig 2), under the ‘my activity’ section. From here you can change who can view your future posts to allow whoever you would like. Select the ‘Edit’ link and change the default allowed viewers to the most suitable for your circumstances.
While controlling your posts is a good start, another essential set of options to change is the app activity and those who can view said activity, this refers to third-party services that are associated with Facebook in some way. You can completely sever access to your account (preventing them from accessing your account and vice versa) affording you better privacy.
To achieve this, return to the ‘Privacy Checkup’ section and go to ‘Your data settings on Facebook’ (Fig 3) and then click continue, this begins the removal of third-party services being associated with your account.
From here, you can begin to sever any links between your Facebook account and third-party services you may have used with your account previously.
An important way to prevent your information from ever being accessed again, should you make use of third-party services and applications (this is inevitable unless you are very careful), is by setting your information to private or ‘Me only’, this stops anyone but you (or whomever you give access) from accessing your account details such as age, sex, address, or contact information. This is possible by clicking on the ‘Privacy Checkup’ section and clicking’ Who can see what you share’ (Fig 3) and changing all relevant pieces of information to a suitable private setting, such as ‘Only me’ or ‘Friends’.
What about when my friends share my posts?
So you have changed the previous settings but still have reservations, after all you might have only allowed friends to view your post, but what if one of your friends shares it?
Unfortunately this is where Facebook becomes rather difficult to control. It’s not possible to prevent others from sharing your post other than by setting viewership of the post to ‘Only me’. Obviously, this is not ideal of course as the purpose of creating the post is so that others can see it.
The final steps to protecting your data on Facebook is the protection of your location. Facebook always has its digital eye on each location you visit, this can be when you log in to your account on a laptop or computer at a new location, or when you open the Facebook app on your mobile device in a new location. Facebook uses this data to personalise your advertisement profile and display adverts specific to your location both on Facebook and other Facebook owned platforms.
On devices such as laptop and PC, protecting your data is easy, simply do not click the location pin when asked by the browser ‘Facebook wants to use your location’. Mobile devices however, is where it differs, there are different steps to take on both Android and iOS to prevent Facebook scooping up your location.
To protect your location when using Apple mobile devices we will start with iOS, navigate to the settings of the device and look for privacy, from here go to location, and then find the Facebook application on the list, once found change it to ‘Never‘ to never allow the Facebook application to access your location. This can be done to all devices you wish to prevent applications from accessing your location.
Android devices have the setting in a different location, enter the settings app of the device and go to applications, from here navigate to the Facebook application and then location, in here change Location Services to off.
Once all of the above have been completed, your data will be far more private and your digital fingerprint will tell far less about your life.