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What's really going on with Facebook? (Updated 4-4-2018)

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Facebook Update - April 4, 2018

The saga continues.  Facebook just announced that some users data may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytics.  Next week, they will start notifying these users.  Due to the backlash, Facebook is now going to further limit access to your data.  They are also disclosing how user's data is shared across their other platforms, i.e. Instagram, WhatApp, Occulus, and Messenger.  All of the new changes are on their website in the "Newsroom".  Click here for the latest details. 


What’s really going on with Facebook?


This week, there has been a lot of news and controversy surrounding Facebook.  You may be wondering what is really going on.  First, a little back story and some facts.  It turns out that Facebook and other social media companies don’t make any money from the pictures of our delicious dinners, vacation photos and selfies or the cute things that our pets do.  Social media companies make their money by selling our information to advertisers and as we have recently found out, anyone else (i.e. Cambridge Analytica). Click here for the back story. 

So what changed?


Social media companies have always made money this way.  It has just evolved and snowballed.  In the beginning of social media, advertisers would pay a lot of money if users clicked random banner ads. Over time, the advertisers figured out that this was not very effective, so they weren’t willing to pay as much per ad or per click.  On top of that, Facebook and most social media companies are publicly traded, this puts them under tremendous pressure from their shareholders and Wall Street to continue to grow their profits. Facebook and the social media companies realized that they have a lot of data and could sell it for more targeted advertising and other uses and make even more money.  As they did this, they would update their user and privacy agreements with limited push back so they kept pushing the envelope on how much and the kind of data that they gathered and sold; until now.


How can I protect my information and data?


Going forward, it’s going to get much easier to protect yourself.  Facebook and others are making changes so you know what is being shared and how you can opt out.  There is always going to be some data sharing and the only way to completely opt out is to delete your account.  This link will take you to Facebook’s newsroom page where they discuss the changes that they are making to the settings and the options that you have.


Here are 5 things you can do to protect yourself right now


1. Read the user and privacy agreements - I know this sounds painful, but if you are really concerned about how your data and information is being used then start here.

2. Download your data file – If you want to know what Facebook already knows about you, you can download the whole file.  Depending on your use, prepare to be amazed.  Go to "settings "and then "general settings".  Underneath the box in the middle of the page, click on "download a copy of your Facebook Data" and then follow the directions.

3. Stop Apps from sharing your data – There are certain apps and websites that you may be using your Facebook login to access.  Keep in mind, that if you disable this, you may need to set up a new user name and password for those apps.  In "settings", click "Apps" to see the apps that are associated with your Facebook account.  Under “Apps, Websites and Plug-Ins”, click "edit" then “disable platform”.  In that same section, under “Apps Others Use”, click on "edit" then deselect every button for every bit of information that you are not comfortable sharing with marketers.

4. Understand your privacy settings - Facebook's Security and Login settings page shows you the location where your Facebook account is logged in and from which device. It also allows users to change their password, log in with a profile picture instead of password, enable/disable two factor authentication, encrypted email notifications, and more. The Privacy settings page shows who can see your Facebook profile information, including posts you've made or you're tagged in, friend requests, friends list, email, phone number, and search engine enable/disable. You can also check Facebook mobile app permission details including storage access, camera, whether the microphone can record audio or not, phone status, approximate location (network-based), and your precise location (GPS and network-based).

5. Know what information is publicly available from your profile - Facebook has an option to see what your profile looks like to the public. Go to Settings > Timeline and Tagging > Review > Review what other people see on your timeline, and click "View As". Make changes to any information you don't want to be public.  For instance, you might not want anyone and everyone to know your hometown, your marital status, or where you work.

Outside of any wrong doing by Facebook or others, this situation proves that protecting our privacy on the internet is extremely difficult and complicated, and that we all need to be more vigilant when we blindly click on a user agreement.