Locking Down Facebook…

The following four articles led to this note. Please read them in order (but watch out for the AUTO LAUNCH VIDEO in the first link):

1. CBS News: Facebook knew of illicit user profile harvesting for 2 years, never acted

2. Reuters: Republican lawmakers concerned by Facebook data leak

3. The Guardian: How to protect your Facebook privacy – or delete yourself completely: If you found the Cambridge Analytica data breach revelations deeply unsettling, read our guide to the maze of your privacy settings

4. BBC News: Is leaving Facebook the only way to protect your data?

Upshot: Panic in the streets. Momentary threats to leave Facebook. And in a week, when something new distracts us, another privacy violation or some other horrible thing that happens in government or in your local community pushes the panic out of the way and we resume our daily lives.

On the 23rd, I posted the following comment on Twitter in relation to this panic, and I think it bears repeating here:

“You know, the conspiracy theorist in me wants to think that the Cambridge Analytica blow-up is meant to destroy our ability to talk freely to one another. If we all delete FB, how will we be able to share this data across a free platform and warn people about stuff like this?”

One friend claims email or texting is sufficient, but she has missed my point completely. We’re all howling now because we know this is a problem and we know it because news sources we trust have covered it. And you know what? Fox News knows it. Just read the comments to see what I’m talking about. Yes, really. This is where it’s important to see what the other side thinks, now more than ever.

Here’s one more article, which I haven’t posted anywhere else until now:

Fox News: Here’s why the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica controversy matters. Interestingly, the comments are similar to my take: Shut down Facebook and the Right loses a platform to reach millions.

For the record, I’ve been warning people about Facebook manipulation in Facebook Notes that go as far back as November, 2012, so this isn’t news. The bottom line is that you can choose what data you want to share with friends or strangers, but the key is to be diligent in managing your own data, and protecting yourself starts and ends with understanding FB’s labels.

Quizzes are a bad deal and they always have been. If you participated, and even if you didn’t, but someone else left their settings wide open and slurped up your data, the first thing you’ll need to do is shut off the apps and access to your account.

The Guardian’s article provides this handy link for checking whether you’ve got apps connected to your account: <https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=applications>

Click the link to see what apps you’ve authorized. At the moment, I have only three links authorized, and only one set to Public (and that’s Twitter, because I’m often posting to Twitter first, which then posts to FB for me).

How to edit or remove an App.

If you have a pile of apps you don’t recognize, delete them by clicking on the app picture and then the x. If you want them, but you don’t want others to have access to the data, set them to Private by clicking on the pencil.

But that’s only part of the picture.

Below the Apps, there are four additional settings: Apps, Websites and Plugins, Game and App Notifications, Apps Others Use, and Old Versions of Facebook for Mobile.

If you allow apps to post cross-platform like I do (for Twitter), you have to leave the first of these enabled. If you don’t connect anything to Facebook and you don’t want to, change this setting and disable Platform entirely. FB warns you of the following:

“If you turn off Platform apps:

·       You will not be able to log into websites or applications using Facebook.

·       You will not be able to log into mobile games or applications using Facebook.

·       Your friends won’t be able to interact and share with you using apps and websites.

·       Instant personalization will also be turned off.

·       Apps you’ve previously installed may still have info you shared. Please contact these apps for details on removing this data.

·       Apps you’ve logged into (with Facebook or Anonymously) will be removed.

·       Posts by apps will be removed from your profile.”

This is perhaps the MOST important thing to do to lock your account down.

The second most important: Apps Others Use.

This is the setting that (in theory) keeps your data from being slurped up via apps like Cambridge Analytica. I go in periodically and confirm that these settings are still off, because when FB pushes updates, they sometimes change those settings for me, and I have to change them back again. It’s a once-in-a-quarter housekeeping thing that’s totally worth the sixty seconds of my time. Click Edit and make sure every box is unchecked.

Third, I shut off Game and App notifications a long time ago, because I got tired of telling my friends to police their own games. If those game notifications are annoying you, you haven’t turned Notifications off yet.

Last, I set all the Old Versions to Only Me, because if that’s all I can do, it keeps my data private.

That’s how you keep your data from being slurped up, but how do you manage annoying ads?

Years ago, when FB first introduced the concept of Likes, they told you straight up that your choices would shape and mold what you saw online. An equally long time ago, I removed most of the “Likes” I had in my profile, because I wasn’t interested in seeing all the ads for Red Lobster or whatever. But the majority of my friends never touched their settings, so I see junk in my feed all the time, and it’s coming from their profiles, not mine.

In the course of the last six years, FB has changed the way Likes work. Tracking your interest in items posted on Pages has been a thing for years, but as I found out recently, there’s no longer a link to manage your “Likes” separately, and that’s part of how you control the ads that show up on your feed.

So just how do you control those ads?

Well, there are a couple of places, if you’re on the Desktop version. Note: I can’t speak about the Facebook App for your phone because I never installed it. I use Chrome on my Droid. FB complains, but so far, I can still read the content using the phone browser.

But I digress. And here’s the counterintuitive part: While you manage the above settings using Ads (on the left side of your Settings page), you can’t get to your Likes that way anymore. They’re really in two places and you need to manage both.

The first part you control here:

https://www.facebook.com/ads/preferences/?entry_product=ad_settings_screen

[Helpful hint: If you don’t have “F”luff “B”usting Purity installed, go get it. I’d post a link, but FB has decided to flag posts that promote the site as spam, and this article is more important than fighting with FB over controlling what we see here, so go search for it yourself on Google.]

Two of the most useful options show up here, and are for removing “Your Interests” and “Advertisers you’ve interacted with” to control what you see on your feed.

Click into each one of these items, hover over the picture, and click the X to get rid of the item. For example, I clicked on an NRA article at some point, and magically, there it was. This hampers FB’s ability to dump crap on your feed.

The second section of this page contains even more invasive stuff. Every one of the options in these two tabs (“About you” and “Your categories”) helps give FB access to the things it thinks you care about the most. Every time you like an article or click through a link, you get tagged and FB builds data on what you care about. Turn all of it off.

“About You” Settings

 

“Your Categories” Settings

In the next section, Ad Settings, you’ll find three options. These are equivalent to choosing your poison. Turn them all off.

Finally, on that page you’ll find “Hide Ad Topics” (targeted to a demographic FB has decided you fit). For example, on my feed, the following options appear:

Alcohol, Parenting, Pets.

Each of these has a separate set of controls. I set all three to permanently hide ad topics.

And you think that’s all, but you’re wrong.

For the next set of changes, you need to be on your Home page. On the left side of your Home page, click on the Pages link.

On this page you’ll see the following: Top Suggestions, Invites, Liked Pages, and Local Picks. If your page is like mine, you’ll default to “Liked Pages” and this is where you’ll find all the things you’ve Liked since the beginning. Theoretically, at least.

There is no easy way to dump the Likes here. You have to click into each one and select “Unlike” to dump the connection.

FB has offered a handy tool on the upper right side, that lets you click multiple pages to unlike all at once, so if you have tons of these, use the tool. I leave the ones that belong to my friends and to select celebrities and politicians I want to follow, but we’re talking about 73 total, and of that only a handful are for people I don’t know in real life.

And that’s about it (for now). Will these options look the same next week? Probably. Three months from now? Maybe. A year from now? I doubt it seriously, but by then you may have decided you’re done with FB forever.

Is there anything else out there that’s comparable?

Nope.

G+ tried to be relevant, but in all honesty I trust Google even less than Facebook, if that’s possible. Twitter isn’t the same at all. Just about everything is public or locked to friends, and the structure for finding what you write is even worse than it is on FB, so no. I have an Ello account as well, and a Pinterest account. Instagram is part of FB, so you’re not really leaving if you go there. LinkedIn is useful, to a point, for work-related stuff, but I don’t mix that with my interactions on Facebook.

You can do what you want, but I firmly believe my boss has no reason to read my writing in this forum on either LinkedIn or Facebook, and these three things are not connected as a result. Eventually, I will tie this Blog to Twitter, which will then automatically post to Facebook, and I’ll probably be done then, but not before I go and grab all the personal stuff I put on Facebook, that’s now Friends-locked.

I guess it all depends on what you want to get out of Facebook. For me, interactions are for two things: To promote my niche view of politics and philosophy on my own personal soapbox and to promote my work (on a different account).

One more thing:

This is the last time I’ll attempt to post anything via FB Notes. It isn’t the first time they’ve locked one of my posts for including something they considered spam, but it’s damn sure going to be the last. I’m grabbing all the Notes I published there and republishing them here instead.

Take THAT, Facebook Algorithms! HAH!

And as always, your mileage may vary. Taxes, tags, and license extra. Caveat emptor and all that.

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