Cambridge Analytica, a British research firm, are currently being accused of breaching data laws, using a ‘personality test’ app in order to access the personal information and data of the user, without the user’s knowledge or consent.
It is alleged that this information, the collection of which Facebook found out about in 2015, was then used in order to create targeted ads, which subsequently aided in the influencing of elections around the world.
Facebook and the protection of its user’s data is now under intense scrutiny and with this recent knowledge coming to light, the question is now raised- how much do we actually know about what information Facebook can access and what it does with this information?
How much information does Facebook actually know about you?
So it’s commonly known that Facebook knows the basic details about you, including your name and date of birth. However, they actually have information on you under 71 different categories, including a history of the conversations you’ve had on Facebook Chat, your location and your religious and political views.
If you thought that your past searches were long gone, this is also not true, as they keep track of every search you’ve ever conducted.
From just a few short actions on Facebook, the company can find out what sort of smartphone you use, your primary desktop operating system and browser, your travel habits, political tendencies and much more.
The predictions Facebook make are based on the different pages you’ve liked, your status updates, what your friends like, your location, your career and the ways in which you interact with other accounts or adverts.
This allows Facebook to gain a thorough understanding about us and the ways in which we work online and use social media.
Can this information be shared with other apps?
Although apps linked to Facebook are not meant to be able to share your data, the allegations regarding Cambridge Analytics show that this might not necessarily always be the case.
When you use Facebook to sign into an app rather than creating an account, such as AirBnB or Gumtree, you give that app access to much of the same data as Facebook, including everything mentioned above. However, they are not meant to share this data with anybody else.
How do I stop apps accessing my data?
If you want to see how much information apps are accessing, you can click on settings from the top right drop down menu, then click on apps and then the little pen icon next to the app, which then allows you to see how much of your personal information these apps are accessing.
You are able to uncheck certain aspects of this accessible information, but some apps require you to share your information in order for them to work, so if you don't want one of these apps to have access to your public profile, you will then need to delete that specific app.
You can also ask apps to delete your data by clicking on the pencil icon next to the app and then at the bottom of that page click on 'Report app'. You then need to click on 'I want to send my own message to the developer', and simply send them a message saying that you would like your data to be removed and that you deny them any access in the future.
Should I quit Facebook?
Although you may not have realised how much data Facebook, and other apps which go through Facebook, have access to, there are still laws in place which are meant to protect your personal information.
It’s worth delving further into this and if there are any apps that you don’t want to have access to your data, you can go through the stages above in order to try and prevent them from collecting or keeping your personal data in the future.
These recent allegations might have been the last straw for some, who may now decide that it’s time to delete their Facebook account and leave it in the past, but this may not be the same for everyone.
Although the recent allegations might not make you want to pack up and leave Facebook altogether, it might be worth considering searching for the terms and conditions and sifting through them to gain a better understanding of what Facebook actually has access to, so there’s no shocking surprises in the future.