What to do about your Facebook settings *right now*


L: Cambridge Analytica’s front page image. Message superposed: “Data drives all we do. Cambridge Analytica uses data to change audience behavior.”

This for starters. Further suggestions welcome. Remember that the way Cambridge Analytica used the Facebook data of 50 million Americans in 2016 is no mere loophole, but built into Facebook’s very nature.

Christopher Wylie describes his part in Cambridge Analytica’s work for Bannon

Remember that sharing your personal information with paying customers is not some kind of glitch on Facebook. It is what Facebook is for. And (actual example) while the shoe company may be interested in your politics because it correlates (indeed it does!) with your taste in shoes, Cambridge Analytica used (uses?) information about people’s taste in shoes in order to target political messages. And if, like me, you have answered online political or personality tests, you may well have helped them.

Remember in what follows that “Friends of friends” is likely to include trolls and spybots.

Click on the tiny downwards arrow at the far right of the blue bar along the top of the page.

Click on “Settings

First, go to “Apps“. I was shocked to discover here a list of all the organisations I had enabled to see my Facebook information, including such details as my Friends list. Ehich I had made accessible to the Daily Express, because I must have signed on to it at one time using Facebook.

Hover in turn over each name listed. If you have any doubts about it, x it out to remove it. Otherwise, click on the pencil icon that appears, in order to edit.

REMOVE permission to see your list of Friends (of course you never consciously gave it; that’s the point), your birthday (for financial security reasons, I gave a fake, which I noted elsewhere, in case I need it to unlock my account), and anything else that you are not happy for that organisation to have. In particular, scan down to remove (I was shocked to discover I had even given) permission to see “likes”. Do you really want these companies to know that much about you? And set “App visibility” to “Only me”.

You can ask the companies whose Apps are shown to delete information they hold about you, but there is no way that Facebook or anyone else can tell if they have actually done so.

Security and login: change your password

Privacy settings and Tools: IMPORTANT – set “Who can see your friends list?” to “Only me”. Otherwise, you are giving away usable information about your friends without their permission. The other settings here depend on how you use Facebook, who you want to see everything you do there, and who you want to be able to  find and contact you.

Timeline and tagging: “Only me” for the right to carrying on your timeline,”Review posts”, and “Review tags” should be On.

Ad preferences: read what Facebook says about these on this page. Once you have done so, you may want to remove some of the information that you have placed on your public profile. Notice that categories of ads you have clicked on then appear on the sub-page “Your interests”,although you may remove these by hovering and x-ing out. I just removed several of these in order to protect my own privacy.

App preferences: this is different from “Apps” and is, designedly, diffcult to get to.I followed the istructions given here; which were: While logged in, open a tab and go to https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=applications

Then either click the Edit button under “Apps, Websites and Plugins” and disable platform or, my choice, go to “Apps Others Use”, run your eye down what you’ve checked for such apps to read about you (I was horrified), uncheck as necessary, and save changes.

Reporting fake news: details from here; Click on the three dots to the right of the title of the pot, then to “give feedback on this post”, then to “False news” and follow obvious links.

And when you’ve done all that, go to the bottom of the list that came up when you clicked that little arrow and log off. That may make it a bit more difficult for companies (or others carrying out surveillance) to spy on you.

And while we’re at it, why just Facebook? see Pigliucci’s Against the Four (Amazon, Apple, facebook, and Google). I have now replaced Google’s Chrome browser with Firefox, and set my default search engine to DuckDuckGo, which does not record my search history.

I do not claim any special competence in this kind of technical area (the very reverse in fact). So I am sure that this post has many inadequacies, and would strongly welcome comments and suggestions for improvement.

h/t Jim Stone for information on App preferences and on Reporting fake news. Disclosure: WordPress has access to my Facebook friends list. This may be totally unnecessary, but I did not want to risk disrupting communication.

About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on March 22, 2018, in Politics, Society and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. How many people give fake information when there is no need for it? For example, name, age, sex, address?


  2. I’m deleting my FB account.


  3. From one person without any special competence in this kind of technical area to another, Thanks!


  4. Thanks for the tips. I was astounded by how many websites were lurking under the ‘apps’ tab. Absolutely sure I did not intentionally link any one of them to Facebook.

    Avoiding Chrome and Google is a given (as is using an Android phone?) but the sad fact is that DuckDuckGo simply does not match Google’s efficiency. So I am obliged, quite often, to resort to Google (which does a better job of finding BBC and NHS and RCPE content than those organisations’ own search engines).

    But one must remain forever vigilant. Many years ago I changed my DNS to OpenDNS, in the hope of restricting how much of my browsing habits might be harvested by my ISP. I recently discovered that the previously independent OpenDNS had been acquired by Cisco some years ago, so I have been feeding Cisco my browsing habits, in utter ignorance. Cisco promise to protect me from spoofed and phishing websites and I suppose they ought to be as aware as any ISP of such websites, but how far can one trust large corporations/governments? Will Cisco ‘protect’ me from websites they consider deleterious to their business model?


    • I’ve been very happy with DukDuckGo, which I access through Mozilla Firefox. I still keep a link to Google Chrome on my toolbar, and that is what I use if, for any reason (such as comparing with what other people are seeing) I need to use a Google search.


      • I don’t like the way that search engines change my request without giving me the opton of insisting that when I include xyz that I want to include xyz. I can type xyz two times, and mark it with a + sign, and it is still removed from the search. I can imagine when automatic driving is included in cars, and it changes my request for destination to what they want.


  1. Pingback: Algorithms, bullshit, and the dismantling of democracy; (1) Bullshit | Primate's Progress

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