Privacy & Social Media

privacy online

You may have heard about the recent Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal involving the personal data of about fifty million Facebook users. This data was being used by a third party to target political advertisements based on information from the users’ profiles.

One way to look at it is that there are two types of visibility on with social media websites:

  1. There is what other people can see on your feed; this might be different for each post depending on your settings (for instance, maybe only friends can see your photos).
  2. The other type of visibility involves what the social media platform itself, as well as third-party apps, can access. This can include everything you make public to your friends, along with private messages, everything you’ve liked and commented on, your location every time you open the app, and more. Basically, if it’s on Facebook’s site, Facebook has access to it.

While it can be relatively simple to monitor what your friends and followers can see, keeping track of and limiting what the companies have access to is trickier.

While the only sure way to make sure your data is not being collected is to delete your accounts and stop using these websites, there are other ways to limit what is gathered so you can keep your online presence.

  • Create strong passwords that are unique (a different password for each site) to protect your different accounts.password post it
  • Read the terms and conditions and privacy policies of sites you’re signing onto: what are they requiring access to? Is it worth it for what they provide?
  • If you can use a website without being signed in (for instance, you can search Google without signing into your account), do so; this will prevent your location and search information from being saved.
  • Finally, clear your cookies regularly to stop websites from remembering you.

You can also dive into the privacy settings of your different social media accounts. Each is in a different place for each website or app, but they generally fall under “settings” or “account.” In Facebook’s settings, for example, you can change what advertisers can use and which apps can see your data. Depending on how you use your Google account, it could be storing your location every time you unlock your phone; turning this off would reduce services like Google Maps but would prevent Google from accessing your location.

Even if you have updated your privacy settings in all the ways you can, it may still feel like there isn’t much you can do besides deleting your accounts. While this is an option, you can also be a critical user of the Internet by being aware of what information you are giving each time you interact with a website. You can also think critically about the news you see online and try to find news in places other than social media feeds to make sure you are not only seeing targeted advertisements.

Check out the links below to learn more, and remember you can ask us in the library about evaluating online sources!social media logos

CBC article about scandal + tips

BBC article about scandal + tips

Download your Facebook Data
Download your Google Data

OC Library: Fight Fake News

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