Playing it Safe On Facebook

It’s an image that’s become recognizable to people everywhere: Mark Zuckerberg poised on a leather booster seat, nervously sipping water as 44 members of the Senate dissect the social media platform the CEO developed in college. While the hearing explored controversial Facebook-related incidents such as the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, the overall goal was to begin to de-mystify user privacy on Facebook—specifically, the way user data is collected and shared by Facebook.

While Facebook’s data collection sounds alarming to those who feel it violates their privacy, the practice also serves a productive purpose. As Zuckerberg explained in his hearing, the collected behaviors and data of Facebook users has helped “more than 70 million businesses…use Facebook to create jobs and grow.”

However, what’s overwhelming for many of Facebook’s 1.4 billion daily active users—as well as the senators present at the hearing—is understanding how this data has been quietly collected and used by the platform for so long. Blame does not fall exclusively on Facebook’s shoulders, however; the site’s users are guilty too. As Zuckerberg said in the hearing, Facebook users have had the ability to control their data all along. “I believe it’s important to tell people exactly how the information that they share on Facebook is going to be used. That’s why every single time you go to share something on Facebook, whether it’s a photo in Facebook or a message in Messenger or What’s App, every single time, there’s a control right there about who you’re going to be sharing it with—whether it’s your friends or public or a specific group—and you can—you can change that and control that in line.”

The issue comes down to a lack of communication. Zuckerberg and other leaders of the tech industry acknowledge that privacy policies are not only confusing by nature, but are rarely read by users—and that can lead to a sense of betrayal when individual social media privacy is violated. Since the hearing, Facebook has updated its Terms of Service and Data Policy to clarify language for users, but has not made explicit changes to their overall data collection process.

Facebook has made it clear that users have the power to protect their privacy. So what steps can they take to ensure that they’re protecting as much personal information as possible? Here are 4 steps to follow.

4 ways to secure your privacy on Facebook

  1. Ad preference: It’s likely happened to all of us. That pair of shoes you casually browsed on Zappos keeps haunting your Facebook timeline. However, Facebook gives users the ability to limit this type of targeted advertisement. In the “settings” section on Facebook, the “Ads” tab allows users to control the data Facebook knows about you and can offer to advertisers. Here you can remove and limit the kind of content Facebook tracks and shares for advertising, ranging from the type of phone you use to where you live.
  2. Blocking: This feature isn’t limited to the overzealous admirer who can’t get the message. Through the “settings” menu’s “Blocking” tab, you can block specific applications or pages. This stops them from gaining access to your non-public information derived on Facebook.
  3. Timeline and tagging: An easy way to protect individual user privacy on Facebook starts with who can view a user’s activity. In the “settings” menu’s “Timeline and Tagging” tab, you can narrow the audience of who is able to view your posts, interactions, or tags.
  4. Your Facebook information: As a general hub for individual user privacy control, the “Your Facebook Information” tab in the “settings” menu gives users the ability to use and access their data and information, manage their activity. It also give you the power to permanently delete your account and information.