How To Survive in Facebook

Lately, Facebook has been in the news for all reasons ever since media reports alleged that a data-mining firm called Cambridge Analytica acquired private data harvested from more than 50 million Facebook users to support Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign.

Today we will try to understand what’s going on around Facebook and make up behavior tactics for living in the big-data world. Finally, I will give you short Facebook safety guide that will help you to lock down your privacy on Facebook.

A lot of people are feeling Facebook can’t be trusted with your data, and has been caught out time and time again letting it leak out to places it shouldn’t. Stop using the social networks, deactivate your Facebook account, delete thyself – kilometers of lines are published on the web every minute. But wait. Before you erase your account or even try to reduce your reliance on Facebook, let’s consider all our options, there are a number of steps you also can take to retain the benefits of social networking with a lot more data privacy. Here’s still some good left in Facebook. Besides, even deleting your account isn’t going to retract the data you already let other sites and services have access to.

Let’s clear up – is there something wrong with facebook?

Remember, when you signed up for Facebook for the first time, you were greeted with the promise that the social network is “free, and always will be”. But if users don’t pay, then how’s Facebook’s massive profits generated? Huge profit –  nearly $16 billion last year. The answer is: via advertising, which at the last count made up a whopping 98.5 percent of the company’s total revenue.

Facebook puts into practice what marketing specialists have long summed up in the slogan: “If you’re not paying, you’re the product.”

The “product”, in this case, is all the personal data that users hand over to Facebook every time they react to a post by clicking “like”, add an emoji, post something themselves, or launch a search on the site.

This is a big selling point for Facebook, which gives advertisers detailed instructions on how to identify and target their preferred group.

That’s why – if you look closely – Facebook’s business model is perfectly legal: the network does not itself market any of the data, but instead sells access to the data to third parties, which often don’t read or respect the terms and conditions of use. Facebook also only uses what users freely divulge about themselves. Sure, Google and Twitter and plenty of other companies employ similar business models. And the idea of supporting a website by showing people ads has been around longer still. But it was Facebook, more than any of these, that taught people around the world to freely give themselves online and to accept the use of their personal data in targeted advertisements as the price of admission to the modern internet.

“Facebook does not look for anything beyond what you yourself have put on the web, and that’s the user’s responsibility,” said Gaspard Koenig, head of GenerationLibre, a French think tank.

Now we come to the conclusion – that’s all not about what Cambridge Analytica did, it’s what Facebook made possible.

What is Cambridge Analytica and how did it obtain Facebook user data?

Cambridge Analytica, which is owned in part by hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer, primarily helps politicians from across the world with their campaigns. It did work for Senator Ted Cruz’s 2015 presidential campaign, for instance, and even Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. 

A Cambridge University psychology professor, Aleksandr Kogan, developed a personality-prediction app that passed along personal data from 50 million Facebook users to Cambridge Analytica. The app, called “thisisyourdigitallife”, was presented as a personality quiz and research app for academic purposes. It collected 5,000 different data points about users and accessed their Facebook accounts and all their friends’ profiles, too. This data was used to create targeted ads. Cambridge Analytica “built models to exploit what we knew about [voters] and target their inner demons.” Wylie described the company’s work as a “grossly unethical experiment”.

Who is Christopher Wylie?

Christopher Wylie, a data scientist, is a former Cambridge Analytica employee turned whistleblower. He spoke to The Observer about his former employer and about how Facebook’s core business model – delivering tailored ads to users – can be exploited.

How to keep your Facebook private and safe without deleting your account

First, the good news: the feature that allowed the most egregious data harvesting used by the company that gave Cambridge Analytica its data is no longer on the site.

The app settings page on Facebook is the place to manage the apps you’ve given access to. Clicking on the link will bring up a list of apps under “logged in with Facebook”. Hopefully you’ll recognise most of them – if there’s any you don’t, consider clicking the “X”, deauthorising them from your account.

  • Choose who can see your posts
    The options range from “public”, meaning everyone on and off Facebook will be able to see it, to “only me”, which makes it off-limits to everyone except you. You can also customize it too so that only select friends can see it.
  • Hide or delete your posts
    A quick way to access a record of all the things you’ve ever shared on Facebook is to select Activity Log in the menu directly below your cover photo.
  • See how your profile looks to other people
    Just head over to your own profile and select the menu icon at the bottom right of your cover photo. Then select View As.
  • Hide your friends list
    Open the Friends tab, and select the menu at the upper right corner. Select Edit privacy. Here you can hide your friends list from your profile by selecting Only Me.
  • Stop Facebook from recognizing you in photos and videos
    To block it from pointing you out in a pic someone else uploads, hit the three dot icon underneath your cover photo on mobile. Select Privacy Shortcuts. Then select More Settings. Tap “Who sees tag suggestions when photos that look like you are uploaded?” Select No One if you don’t want anyone to get tag suggestions when pics and videos you’re in are uploaded.
  • Appearing in search engine results
    Click the downward arrow at the top right of any Facebook page and choose Settings. Click Privacy from the left column.
  • Turn on those additional security settings
    It’s worth exploring Facebook’s other security features. You can get alerts for when Facebook sees a login from a device or browser you don’t typically use. You can also enable two-factor authentication so that a code is sent to your phone and is required every time you log in to Facebook. These feature will help prevent others from accessing your account, though they won’t stop your data from being harvested. On mobile, go to Settings > Account Settings > Security and Login. From there, you can adjust all the same settings found on the desktop site.

I also recommend reading “The complete guide to Facebook security” – one of the best and the fullest guide I’ve read on enhancing our privacy.

Should you delete your Facebook?

This is a personal decision that we can’t decide for you. The best way to protect your personal data is to leave Facebook, but in reality, Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp. So, to properly leave Facebook’s ecosystem and lock down your data, you’d need to abandon those as well.

The Big Data World

Snowden was first who helped bring the discussion of big data privacy and security to the public square – and not just the American public square, but the global one as well.  This is a good thing because in this era of big data, not to mention the Internet of Things, we can no longer relegate this discussion to the privacy freaks and security geeks in the back room.  It’s a discussion in which we all should participate.

Protecting personal data in the era of big data and the IoT requires a multi-faceted approach that places data owner control as a core value of its solutions. Everyone must be not only aware of the data they generate and share across devices and platforms, but they must also understand the security risks and implications of a breach. Whether technology or policy, or a combination, is used to protect individual data, it must be done with users controlling who accesses their information and in what manner. And, importantly, data owners should not be penalized for accessing the advantages of an increasingly connected, data-rich world of information and communication technology with an increased risk of privacy loss and exploitation.

More links:

Facebook is experimenting on you. Here’s how you can run an experiment on it

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