It’s time for us all to perform a thorough stocktake of the data we entrust to Facebook and through it, other apps.
The chilling story of how the personal data of 50 million users was hijacked for electioneering in the 2016 presidential campaign is a wake up call for us all.
In this particular saga, the app involved was a Facebook app calledthisisyourdigitallife that users thought was psychology research. The data it vacuumed up was used to decide who to target with what information in the 2016 US poll, and for deciding what cities Donald Trump would visit in the latter part of the campaign.
The company that used the data for political analysis, Cambridge Analytica, has been upfront about that.
It is claimed 270,000 users downloaded thisisyourdigitallife yet, by accessing the information of their friends, the app developer managed to harvest the data of 50 million people.
How? Whenever people opened a quiz, for example or a new app, they were encouraged to tick the permission boxes granting access to their friends’ data. That took the firm to their friends’ posts, and then to those friends’ friends, and so on.
So it’s fitting to shut down Facebook apps that you really don’t need, or at the least to revisit the permissions you grant them, so that your personal information is better safeguarded.
In the Facebook smartphone app, press the three parallel lines icon at the bottom right (iOS) or top right (Android), then select Settings (iOS) or Settings & Privacy (Android), then Account Settings>Apps. You should be on a page marked Apps and Websites, and if you’re like me, be confronted with alarming information about the breadth of your data sharing with Facebook.
The heading Logged in with Facebook lists the apps you have accessed using your Facebook credentials. In my case that turned out to be 111 apps. Press the icon at the right, and you’ll see a list of them. When you tap on each one, you’ll get to see the information you have inadvertently shared with these apps, such as your public profile, friend list, relationship status, work, education history and the rest.
The people who build these apps are not your friends, yet it’s easy to hand them over all the data you’d share only with your best friends. The best policy is to scroll to the bottom, and remove the app. Do that in each case.
You can also access the settings on a computer from your browser.
Chirs Griffith is a technology reporter at The Australian. This article has been republished with the permission of News Corp Australia.