A Guide To Using Facebook Safely

Facebook has been embroiled in a number of controversies over the years, but none as colossal as the recent Cambridge Analytica fiasco. The multibillion-person user base of Facebook has been abused time and time again. Sometimes, unwittingly, by the company itself. Other times by outside actors with nefarious intentions.

Now, more than ever, people are urged to break away from Facebook. To delete it, and live a life beyond social media. Big names such as Elon Musk, Jim Carrey, Will Ferrell, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton have all deleted their Facebook accounts.

Some of us may have realized that Facebook is nothing but a black hole, swallowing up our time and cheapening the human experience. Maybe you just don’t like the drama, or the politics, or how the yearning for constant validation makes you feel.

Others may have found that Facebook is an essential tool to keep in touch with friends or family. Some of your business ventures may rely on you having an account.

So, in the wake of all the scandal, how do we use Facebook safely?

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Giving Facebook Less Of Your Personal Data

Facebook just can’t be trusted to police its own platform. Data analytics firms have been pulling the wool over their eyes for some time now – Cambridge Analytica couldn’t have been the first. It’s also a mistake to think that this is solely an American problem.

Sure, the majority of the people who had their personal data sold are from the United States. Recent reports, though, indicated that 59 777 South Africans were also potentially impacted. You can follow THIS LINK  to see if you were among those affected.

It’s not really a matter of which country has been affected. It’s the principle.

The video below, by The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert, details exactly who these data firms are and how they operate.

Android users may be loath to discover that Facebook has also been collecting call history and SMS data from your phones for years. Chances are pretty good that your phone has even been uploading all of your contacts to Facebook, which it stores.

Recently, Facebook has also admitted to spying on our Messenger chats.

In Facebook’s defence, it is making an effort to fix the problems.

  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been outlining an idea for a Facebook ‘Supreme Court’ to review decisions and improve community standards;
  • The social network has changed how it stores user data, as well as how apps access that data;
  • It has made the user privacy settings easier to navigate;
  • Facebook has suspended data firms AggregateIQ and Cubeyou for misleading users much the same way Cambridge Analytica did;
  • It will be adding a much-needed unsend button to Messenger.

Sounds great, but of course, all hell had to break loose first. While the folks at Facebook tinker away and try to clean up the mess they’ve allowed to happen, let’s take a look at those privacy settings of yours.


Disable Your Location Services

Location data is some of the most sensitive data you could possibly grant to any app or service. With it, companies know exactly where you live or work, the roads you travel or the places you frequent. Advertisers use this information, acquired through Facebook.

It makes sense to allow apps such as Google Maps to know where you are. Aside from that, there’s very little reason to allow it.


Restrict Third Party App Access

Over the years, and without even being aware of it, you may have been granting a large number of third-party apps access to your Facebook data.

This data may include where you live, who your friends and family are, which pages you like or groups you’re a part of, etc. Here’s how to prevent it:


Limit Sharing Capability

It is best to go through this step on a desktop PC, where it is a lot easier to take in. This step involves some careful tinkering and calibration to make sure that you’ve applied the settings that work for you.

  • In Facebook, go to the Settings option, which will take you to the Settings Screen.
  • In the column on the left, click on Privacy.

  • Here is where you can toggle how and what you share on Facebook. This includes how your posts are seen, shared and how other people can interact with you. We recommend changing the ‘Who Can See Your Future Posts?’ setting to Friends
  • Here you can also limit the audience of your past posts. Meaning, all of the previous posts you may have accidentally shared to the world will be made visible to friends only.
  • In this section you can also toggle how other people are able to find you and contact you, who can see your friends list and whether or not your profile will pop up in search engines. If you enjoy privacy, we recommend you set all of the methods you’re uncomfortable with to Only Me or Friends.

  • Below Privacy you’ll find the Timeline and Tagging Here you can control who may post on your wall or how they may tag you in other posts. Again, we recommend you toggle between Friends and Only Me settings, which will limit other people’s access to your wall.
  • If you want, you could also toggle the tagging settings in order to review what you’ve been tagged in before it gets posted onto your wall.

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Remove All Personal Info

In the pursuit of privacy, this is one of the most important things you can do. To limit the amount of total information you’re making available on Facebook at all times. To begin, in Facebook, click on the Question Mark (?) icon in the top right corner and then select Privacy Checkup from the dropdown menu.

  • There are three steps here. Posts, Apps and Profile – and you’ll need to go through each one step by step in order to determine how your personal information is viewed and by whom. You can keep it all intact, but we do recommend that you change the viewability to Only Me.
  • Stripping all of this info from Facebook will make it much harder for anybody to find you, and is certainly necessary if you value your data.
  • Facebook has a View As feature, found on your Profile Located near the bottom right of your Cover Photo – next to the View Activity Log button, you’ll find three dots. Clicking on that will give you a dropdown menu from which you can select View As. This allows you to view your profile the way a stranger would. The public version of your profile. Or, alternatively –you can also choose to view it the way a specific friend would.


Disable Ad Preferences

Last but not least, we’re going to eliminate the ability for advertisers to target ads based on your personal info. Ever noticed that you’ve been doing a little online shopping and suddenly all the same stuff is showing up on your Facebook? Let’s put an end to that.

  • Firstly, head on over to the Ad Preferences page, which you can find HERE.
  • Here you’ll find that advertisers have been targeting you based on where you work, your relationship status, your interests, etc. Let’s deactivate all of them.

  • Under Your Interests – you’ll have to remove the irrelevant ones all one by one. You may be shocked to find how many “interests” you’ve accumulated over the years.
  • Likewise under Advertisers You’ve Interacted With. Remove what’s not applicable.
  • Under Your Information, we recommend you disable all of them.
  • Ad Settings allow you to change the ability of advertisers to target you based on third-party websites, as well as how other people can view your ad engagement activity. Feel free to disable.


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