Facebook, social media privacy and Cambridge Analytica

It would appear lots of people are now freaking out about the data they share. Whilst that’s a good thing that people are more privacy aware it’s also a bit late as you’ve been sharing everything for years and those third parties already have your data and revoking access is a bit closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Anyway if you are concerned there are a number of things you can do to reduce the data leakage if you don’t want to delete facebook entirely.

Ad preferences;
This is where you can opt-out of interest based advertising (you will still see ads just not using the data collected to profile you into target segments), you can usually see what segments the company has placed you (based on what you like, sites you visit, other adverts you interact with, location etc). Now you can limit them tracking across the web – however facebook if you want to be able to login with facebook etc you are still letting them track the sites you visit so that’s the convenience trade off. It’s a free service after all and that means you are the product.

Facebook Ad preferences
Google Ad preferences
Twitter Ad preferences
Instagram Ad preference (see Facebook advert preferences)

If you are in the EU you can also use Your Online Choices to opt-out of many advertising networks that track you in a similar way (usually pixels or code snippets on the sites you visit. In North America you have a similar option at Your Ad Choices.


Sites you are logged in with using some connection (and sharing personal data with);
This is where you can see sites you’ve used the login with Facebook/Twitter/Google/etc. Usually you are sharing public profile information like name and image, other times you are also sharing email address and much more. Some sites ask for friends lists (See the Cambridge Analytica story for why this is bad) and relationship status etc etc. Why do they need this? They don’t. Usually they will suggest it’s so you can invite your friends easily or somethings. Seriously though you can type a name yourself though right?

Facebook login and app data
Google login and app data
Twitter login and app data
Instagram login and app data

Now one thing to consider here is you have already shared this information with the third party. So that quiz you took in 2013 may still have your data even if you remove the access here. When you use facebook or google etc to login always check what data you are sharing and set it to just the bare minimum.

Downloading your data;
In the EU you have a right to see the data a company has about you. Facebook have a tool to allow you to download everything and then browse it easily using your usual browser. It’s cool and worrying when you see all your likes etc in one place.

Facebook data download
Twitter Data
Google allow you to download your data but hey it’s a lot if like me you use photos and gmail.
Instagram I’m not sure if you can yet.


BBC News – B&B ruling: Discrimination a right – Nick Griffin

Okay so there is a lot of buzz about this today but seriously people the point here is that it’s not a home it’s a business. I agree that you can choose who you allow into your home but if you choose to run a private hotel, guesthouse, B&B then you no longer have the same rights, you are a business and should be judged as any other business is.

It wouldn’t be okay for a high street store to discriminate, or an office to discriminate so it’s not okay for a B&B to either.

BBC News – B&B ruling: Discrimination a right – Nick Griffin.

Do Not Track – Internet Privacy Bill and ‘do not track’ support

Back in February The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights was formally unveiled in the US, and it endorses the ‘Do not track’ web browser functionality that already has the support of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL.
In many respects it’s similar to the existing cookie laws being implemented across Europe. The Bill comes at the same time as the European Union is preparing similar regulations. I believe the current cookie law is flawed but has the right ideas at it’s heart. Making end users decide on a website by website basis is painful for the website owners having to implement code to ensure this happens and painful for the consumer it seeks to protect by bombarding them with information and pop-ups they will probably never read or understand.

I think making use of existing technology in the browser is by far the most sensible solution. The browser can contain a list of sites the user is happy to share data with and by default it could reject information sharing until a user has actively chosen to share data.

This would be persistent which is another concern for me when considering the cookie law. If a consumer deletes his/her cookies then their preferences are deleted.

So in the interest of seeing how website owners could honour DNT (do not track) I searched in vain for a matrix of browser support for the functionality within browsers. Information is sparse. Some sites quote browser support for DNT coming in new releases, others states that the browser already supports it (although I’ve not managed to find how to switch it on) . Add to this confusion that individual browser manufacturers are implementing DNT support in different ways and there is a headache waiting to happen.


Disclaimer: I currently work for AOL and work on privacy issues including the EU “cookie law”

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Tweets on 2012-04-17