In the wake of the past weekend’s Cambridge Analytica revelations, many have suggested that there is only one way to ensure your social media data isn’t used for nefarious purposes: delete Facebook. But despite its blatant disregard for user privacy, the social media platform is still useful to many people, so completely disconnecting from Facebook isn’t a viable option.
That doesn’t mean that Facebook users shouldn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy. It’s true that you give most of that away by agreeing to the terms and services. It’s also true that the Cambridge Analytica scandal was not really a data breach, as the fact that third-party applications can obtain troves of data from the social media platform is baked into Facebook’s infrastructure. Thankfully, Facebook gives users the option to disable third party apps that collect your data by turning off the “Platform” setting, which allows apps to access your data through Facebook’s API. Unfortunately, you probably weren’t aware this was a possibility, and third party app connections can actually be really convenient.
For example, if you prohibit apps from collecting your data, you won’t be able to log into other services with your Facebook account. Still, if you want to keep your Facebook account and ensure a modicum of privacy, it’s imperative to dive into your account settings and sever your connections to third party apps.
To get started, navigate to the settings menu and select the tab labeled “Apps.” On this screen, you should see a section called “Apps, Websites, and Plugins.”
Click edit, and a pop-up menu will inform you of all the services you will be missing out on by opting out of this Faustian bargain. Press “Disable Platform,” and you’re good.
If you want to keep all the Platform features but improve your data privacy a bit, you can instead change your settings for “Apps Other Use,” also on the app settings page. Click edit on this section, and a pop-up menu will prompt you to determine the kind of info that other people’s apps can collect about you. You don’t lose any functionality by unchecking all of the boxes, so might as well if your goal is to protect your data.
Based on Facebook’s reticence to admit culpability for a variety of problems for which it’s been implicated, it’s unlikely that the service will make any big changes to the way third-party apps harvest data. That’s why it’s important to take advantage of the privacy options Facebook provides, even when it may be too little, too late.