Data Privacy Day: Check Your Security Settings on Email, Facebook, & Google

Make sure your virtual locks aren't rusted.

Today marks the eleventh Data Privacy Day, a yearly educational event led by the National Cyber Security Alliance on January 28. To mark the occasion, a group of global data security thought leaders will host a panel at LinkedIn’s office in San Francisco though, with a flurry of privacy scandals in the news, it’s unlikely Microsoft’s professional networking asset will be at the top of consumers’ minds as they dust off their old passwords and update their privacy settings.

The topics of discussion will center around security innovation, potential dangers in the future, and new legislation, like the California Consumer Privacy Act, that forces online services to reveal what data they’re collecting and how they’re using it. The talks will primarily focus on company transparency and how federal and local government can hold social media sites accountable for misusing users’ data. But Data Privacy Day is also meant to serve as a reminder to check on your own digital security health.

This year, privacy proponents will have more on their mind than whether you’re still using “password” as an actual password. If you have multiple email addresses, for example, do you have two factor authentication (2FA) set up? Has the ancient Hotmail account you used when you signed up for Facebook in 2005 since been compromised? And say, how much information do social media platforms have on you, anyway? Here’s how to make sure your virtual locks aren’t rusted over.

Data Privacy Day: Check If Your Log-In Credentials Have Leaked

First and foremost, you want to make sure that you’re the only one accessing your emails. Most recently, on January 17, roughly 773 million email address credentials were leaked online. If you have 2FA active, you’re most likely in the clear, but you can still easily check to see if your account was involved to change your password just to be on the safe side.

To check your own credentials against a database of leaks, you can visit Have I Been Pwned?, type in your email address, and the site will let you know if it’s no longer secure. If you find that you have indeed been pwned, you’re going to want to reset your password immediately and enable 2FA in your email settings.

email security
Make sure your email hasn't been breached like my burner address!

If you’re in the clear, it’s still recommended you use a password manager to generate and store strong passwords for your emails and social media accounts. Try out 1Password, LastPass, or Dashlane

Data Privacy Day: Is My Social Media Data Safe?

Next, you’re going to want to check how much social media sites have on you and ensure your account is secure. To do this on Facebook click the down arrow on the upper right of the screen to open the Settings menu.

facebook devices access data security
A list of some of the past devices I used to access my Facebook account.

First, navigate to the Security and Login tap on the left to see what devices have access to the account and if you have 2FA activated. There should be a list of every device that has logged into your Facebook account in the past. If you see something suspicious, click the three dots to the right of the listing to begin securing your account.

If everything looks good — meaning all the listed devices are devices you recognize — scroll down to make sure you have 2FA active. You can even use the Authorized Logins tab to pre-select the only devices that you want to access the account.

Now that you’ve ensured no one else is poking around your account account, you can check out what kind of data Facebook has on you and get a sense of how they may be using it. Open the Your Facebook Information tab which appears to the right of the home screen.

facebook ad interests
Wow, Facebook thinks I'm a big ol' nerd.

By clicking Access Your Information, you’ll be able to see all of the data Facebook has gathered on you and how it uses it to serve ads. You can even download a list of every piece of information the website has ever collected from you by clicking Download Your Information. This will be emailed to you, though it could take a few minutes or even an hour to compile it all.

If you’re weirded out by this, you can delete your Facebook account by clicking the conveniently placed Delete Your Account and Information button at the bottom of the list.

Data Privacy Day: You Can Do the Same for Google

Facebook might have endured the brunt of the social media data collection backlash thanks in so small part to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but don’t underestimate Google. Not only did the search giant’s failed social network platform Google+ expose the data of 52.5 million users last year, but it might even have a log of places you frequent, particularly if you’re a Google Maps power user.

google location data
I don't have any of my Google Maps data saved, just check to see if you do.

You can also find out which information Google is leveraging as part of its advertising effortsby visiting its Ad Settings page. You can also turn off personalized ads, but bear in mind that this will result in random ads that you could find even more annoying than ones geared directly to you.

Avid Google Maps users will definitely want to check their location history, too. Users can delete a certain day by by clicking the black trash can at the bottom of the screen, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to wipe all of the data at once. Optionally, you can also choose to turn off location settings on your mobile device, but this will obviously make navigating a bit harder as the app won’t be able to find you.

Finally, you can export all of the data Google has collected on you by managing your archives. Just like Facebook, this will take up to a few minutes or an hour to be emailed to you.