We are living in an age of social media boom where fake news, driven by social media managers filled with hubris, dominates our timelines. When talking about social networking sites, the one name that pops up first is Facebook – the platform that changed how the world stays connected and a massive purveyor of fake news. Moreover, it is hard to find too many people who are not on Facebook or who haven’t ever used it at some time in the past. The ease and convenience of staying in touch with friends and family through Facebook are so high that most people don’t wonder if their private information is being used and exploited by Mark Zuckerburg’s brainchild. In essence, Facebook are selling your private data to the highest bidder, even if they claim otherwise. But how exactly are they doing it?
“We collect the content and other information you provide when you use our Services, including when you sign up for an account, create or share, and message or communicate with others. This can include information in or about the content you provide, such as the location of a photo or the date a file was created. We also collect information about how you use our Services, such as the types of content you view or engage with or the frequency and duration of your activities.”
Basically, Facebook knows everything about you. This includes your age, email, phone number, workplace, school, friends, places you visit, and websites you browse. All this info goes into targeted advertisement. If you have ever tried creating an ad on Facebook, you probably are aware that you can select your audience based on their interests, age, location, among other things.
How Facebook Uses Your Private Data – The Essentials
The funny thing is that Facebook doesn’t steal your information. Rather, you willingly share it with Facebook. You have told Facebook all about yourself, your location, your job, your friends, and also your relationship. You have also given away what your favorite movies are, which sports teams you support, and which school you went to.
You must’ve seen advertisements popping up on your profile based on something you are your friends have liked, or based on a Google search you recently performed. Ever wondered how Facebook does this?
It is actually simple. When you sign up for an account on Facebook, a tracking cookie is inserted into your web browser for collecting every data that you share online or offline. This data is sold to Facebook’s advertising partners so they could show ads more relevant to you. And that’s not all.
Facebook can also recognize you or your friends from the pictures that you upload, and it can also do so even with pictures that you upload elsewhere on the web. This is because of the ‘face recognition’ capabilities that Facebook uses.
Now when you think about it does this make you uncomfortable? If it does, you are not to blame. Facebook goes beyond merely analyzing your profile data to completely tracking you across the web. If you log onto Facebook and then log onto other websites, Facebook knows this.
Moreover, most people don’t know how these things work, so when they find out how Facebook exploits their private information, they are surprised and scared. Some of the most controversial ways Facebook has used its users’ private data over the years were documented by Time Magazine back in 2014.
What Happens If You Don’t Share Any Information?
You might think that removing your profile information or leaving your profile blank could be less terrifying. Studies reveal it isn’t so. You require sharing some basic information to create an account, like your age and location.
If Facebook doesn’t find any other information beyond this, it will target your friends. So you will have ads popping up on your profile based on what your friends have liked. You will be notified about the photos your friends have uploaded, and the recent modifications to their profile. Advertisers can use your minimal demographic data, coupled with your friends’ data, to send you ads.
Is There No Way to Stop This Exploitation of Personal Data?
The thought that your private information is being circulated all over the web is unsettling. What Facebook’s frequent updates to security and privacy settings make people wonder if there is really any way secure your account? It is good when Facebook finds your old school friends or recommends products that you could find useful but keeping track of everything you do on the web is not something to be comfortable with.
There are steps you can take to make your data more secure. Some of the ways to protect your privacy are as follows:
- Delete Your Facebook Account: For a complete peace of mind, you can delete your Facebook account permanently. To do so, follow these steps.
- Go incognito: The easiest way to prevent your browser from storing any data of your online activities is to use the ‘private’ mode while browsing the web.
- Know Facebook account settings: Most people only know some of the basic settings on Facebook. If you dig deeper well find there are settings you can tweak to make your account more secure.
- One of these settings is to opt out of advertisements. You can do this by clicking the ‘lock’ icon when you are logged into Facebook and then selecting “see more settings”. You will see the ‘Ads’ tab on the sidebar, click on it, then click on ‘Edit’ under ‘Third Party Sites’ and change the setting to ‘No one.’ Next, click ‘Edit’ under ‘Ads & Friends, and choose ‘No One.’ This step will disable advertisements from showing on your profile.
- Block tracking: To prevent Facebook from tracking your activities on the Web, you can install third-party software. This software will block any tracking and also let you know if there are attempts to track your activities. Two of the most popular software apps to block tracking are DoNotTrackMe and Ghostery.
- Install a VPN: A Virtual Private Network might sound expensive, but it is actually the safest way to protect privacy online. If you do end up signing up with a VPN service, we urge you to stay away from ‘free’ VPNs such as Hola. Such VPN service providers often compromise your privacy instead of protecting it. Go with proven VPNs such ExpressVPN or BulletVPN if you value your security and personal data.
How Facebook Uses Your Private Data – Wrap Up
Social media is a necessary evil these days. Be aware of what information you share online and how it is used by social media sites to better protect your security. At the end of the day, ‘free’ online services are a rarity. In most cases, a product that advertises itself as free turns you into the product. In the case of Facebook, advertisers are the customers and Facebook users are the product on sale. Remember, Facebook also owns Instagram and Whatsapp. Google, on the other hand, has purchases Youtube years ago. Combine all these services together, and think about all the private data they’re collecting around the clock. The ugly truth is there’s no privacy online.