Securing Facebook: Keep your data safe with these privacy settings

Here's Facebook privacy settings explained. Don't let your personal information get into the wrong hands.
Written by Jake Smith, Contributor

Facebook knows a lot about you. And so do the third-party app makers and partners in the social network's ecosystem.

This month, a whistleblower revealed data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica harvested private data from 50 million Facebook profiles to understand voter behavior amidst the 2016 US Presidential election.

Facebook user data was accessed -- without explicit user permission -- by Cambridge Analytica to help Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. It was collected by a stealthy personality prediction Facebook app called "thisisyourdigitallife." Personal data accessed from Facebook users included profile names, locations, and information on their friends and the content they liked.

Read also: Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and data mining: What you need to know (CNET) | News Feed algorithm changes could make it harder for businesses to market on Facebook (TechRepublic)

Facebook apps can bleed your information without you knowing. In wake of the scandal, it's important to know which apps have access to your personal data and make the appropriate privacy changes to your account. Facebook has rolled out new settings to appease users after the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Here's what you need to know.

Facebook: Adjust App Settings

Facebook's App Settings page is one of the social network's most important privacy destinations.

App Settings displays Facebook apps that are connected to your Facebook account. Here, you can see what data you provide apps and disable sharing select info. You can also remove the app completely from your Facebook account. Yes, even the FarmVille app you downloaded three years ago.


Adjust Facebook app settings for more privacy control.

(Image: ZDNet)

To access Facebook's App Settings:

  • Web: Click or tap the downward-facing triangle to launch a drop-down menu at the top right of Facebook.com, then select Settings, and click or tap Apps.
  • Android: Tap the three-line button at the top right of the Facebook app. Here you select Account settings and then Apps.
  • In iOS: Tap the three-line button (bottom right of Facebook's app), then select Settings, and go to Account Settings. Finally, select Apps.

It's probably wise to unlink any Facebook apps from your account you no longer use. Remember, Cambridge Analytica's app was legitimate on the surface. Apps have access to your friend list and any information your friends choose to make public -- don't be fooled.

Facebook offers privacy settings to control more of your data. (File photo)

Facebook described its app platform as such:

Using Platform allows you to bring your Facebook experience to the other apps and websites you use on the web and to your mobile device and apps. It allows Facebook to receive information about your use of third party apps and websites to provide you with better and more customized experiences.

Facebook's App Settings also lets users control app visibility, so you can adjust if your friends can see if you use an app or not.

Facebook: Disable apps completely

Instead of cherry picking and disabling Facebook apps, you can completely disable the Facebook app platform. This means you won't be able to use Facebook integrations on third party apps or websites who access data through OAuth. Theoretically, you won't be sharing as much data with prying eyes.

(Image: ZDNet)

"If you don't want apps and websites to access other categories of information (like your friend list, gender or info you've made public), you can turn off all Platform apps. But remember, you will not be able to use any games or apps yourself," Facebook writes in a support document.

You can turn Platform off by going to App Settings, then edit Apps, Websites and Plugins.

When you disable Facebook's app platform:

  • You will not be able to log into websites or applications using Facebook.
  • You will not be able to log into mobile games or applications using Facebook.
  • Your friends won't be able to interact and share with you using apps and websites.
  • Instant personalization will also be turned off.
  • Apps you've previously installed may still have info you shared. Facebook says you should contact apps for details on removing this data.
  • Apps you've logged into (with Facebook or Anonymously) will be removed.
  • Posts by apps will be removed from your profile.

You can also disable those annoying Game and App notifications from your friends under App Settings.

Facebook: Control info friends can see about me

To control Facebook data your friends can see about you, and thus share with third-party apps, simply do the following:

  • Go to your App Settings.
  • Click Edit below Apps Others Use.
  • Click to check the boxes next to the info you want your friends to see about you in the apps they use and click Save.

Facebook: Access Your Information

A new setting Facebook rolled out, called Access Your Information, lets users access and delete their posts, reactions, comments, and searches from their timeline or profile. It's an effort by Facebook to give users more control over what's posted on the social network.

(Image: Facebook)

Facebook said the new setting was already in the works before the Cambridge Analytica scandal. "You can download a secure copy and even move it to another service," Facebook said.

Facebook: Download your data

While Facebook previously allowed users to download data and information uploaded, a new option sorts the download into several categories including posts, photos and videos, messages, groups, following, followers, and more.

Facebook: New privacy shortcuts

Also new from Facebook is a Privacy Shortcuts menu to give users easier access to data controls.


Comparison of the old settings menu (left) and new settings menu (right).

(Image: Facebook)

Here, you can make your account more secure with settings like two-factor authentication, control personal information, control advertisement information, profile privacy, and more.

Facebook: Other security tips


Facebook's Security and Login settings page shows you the location where your Facebook account is logged in and from which device. It also allows users to change their password, log in with a profile picture instead of password, enable/disable two factor authentication, encrypted email notifications, and more.

The Privacy settings page shows who can see your Facebook profile information, including posts you've made or you're tagged in, friend requests, friends list, email, phone number, and search engine enable/disable.

You can also check Facebook mobile app permission details including storage access, camera, whether the microphone can record audio or not, phone status, approximate location (network-based), and your precise location (GPS and network-based).

Lastly, it's important to remember to clear your web browser cookies. This will allow you to send less data to Facebook to use in advertisements on yourself.

Facebook: Privacy road ahead

In a blog post, Facebook said it has more privacy changes planned to rollout in the coming weeks:

It's also our responsibility to tell you how we collect and use your data in language that's detailed, but also easy to understand. In the coming weeks, we'll be proposing updates to Facebook's terms of service that include our commitments to people. We'll also update our data policy to better spell out what data we collect and how we use it. These updates are about transparency - not about gaining new rights to collect, use, or share data

We'll be tracking the latest.

How to reduce the amount of information you send to Facebook

Related and previous coverage:

How Google aims to save journalism, thwart fake news and trump Facebook

Google's olive branch to news publishers is about capturing ad dollars from a weakened Facebook as much as it is saving the media industry.

Beware marketers, the consumer data collection blowback is just starting

Deloitte found that 93 percent of consumers would want to delete their personal data held by various companies. Why? These consumers have little faith that service providers can secure it.

Privacy Commissioner to look at Facebook compliance in Australia

Australia's Information and Privacy Commissioner is 'making inquiries' to clarify if any personal information of Australians was involved in Cambridge Analytica's misuse of Facebook user data.

Trump-linked data firm Cambridge Analytica harvested data on 50 million Facebook profiles to help target voters

A data analytics firm used by Donald Trump's campaign during the 2016 presidential election collected data on millions of Facebook accounts to predict how people will vote at the ballot box.

Editorial standards