Identity Blog

The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Meltdown: How to Update your Privacy Settings

In case you haven’t heard yet, millions of users unknowingly handed over their personal information to an outside company through Facebook.

What about privacy settings?

Unfortunately, due to a Facebook policy at the time, the company was able to obtain data from 50 million Facebook users without their permission.

What Happened?

According to a report by the New York Times, a research firm, called Cambridge Analytica, was able to obtain personal data from 50 million Facebook users without their permission.

It’s pretty understandable why this alone has people pretty upset.

The breach, however, has had some pretty serious implications. The company was able to exploit the private social media activity in order to be used for micro-targeting and influencing in the United States 2016 election.

This incident is one of the largest data leaks in the social networks history.

I’m sure you’re wondering how this happened. Facebook after all is one of the largest social providers out there.

Here’s a quick rundown of the specifics: a Facebook app developed in 2014 by Dr. Aleksandr Kogan, called “thisisyourdigitallife”, was able to obtain user data from the profiles of users that took part in the apps survey.

But wait, that’s not the worst part.

About 270,000 people took part in the survey, and willingly allowed the app to obtain their information. At the time, however, the Facebook policy about third-party apps allowed Dr. Kogan to also obtain data of the friends of the users that completed the survey.

This meant that he was able to gather data on approximately 50 million users in total, without their permission.  

According to Facebook, Dr. Kogan claimed to be collecting the data for academic purposes. Cambridge Analytica, however, paid to acquire the personal information from Dr. Kogan, in which they then used to do micro-targeting for President Trump’s campaign.

How to Protect Yourself

I’m sure this data leak has you worried about your personal information. No need stress; we’ve listed out a quick way to change your privacy settings to ensure that your data is safe.

1. Go to Facebook’s App Settings page.

2. Remove third-party apps that you no longer use by hovering over the icon and clicking the X.

3. Alternatively, you can adjust the amount of information you provide third-party apps by clicking the edit button.

4. The third-party apps, however, could still have your data stored in their servers. To delete that information, click on the Report App at the bottom right-hand corner of the settings window. Then select “I want to send my own message to the developer”, where you can then request them to delete your information.

5. To see details on how the app is using your information, click App Privacy Policy, which is in the same row as Report App.

6. To prevent your friends from sharing your information, click Apps Other Use, which is near the bottom of the page, underneath all your third-party apps. There, you can edit what your friends can share about you.

This fix, however, is not ideal. Social Media providers, like Facebook, change their privacy settings all the time.

Fortunately, governments are now taking action. Privacy initiatives, like the GDPR, are being put in place to better protect users data. If you’re interested in learning more, read our follow-up blog post here.

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