Many have seen this coming for the longest time – we’ve all been warned about our data being mishandled, misused and siphoned as its being transferred. Some of us have even seen the effects of this first-hand, with identity theft becoming more and more commonplace in the growing technological climate. And now, finally, this has come to a head with Facebook’s high-profile controversy with data handling, with its effects and damage still unfolding in the media day by day. Though this outcome isn’t the first of its time, it definitely won’t be the last.
For context, from the dawn of its conception, Facebook has come under fire for its outright irresponsible handling of its users’ personal information. The site has encouraged its exponentially growing user base to upload every detail of their lives – their age, family, likes and dislikes, personal hang-ups – to their database to show off every part of their digital persona. This high and world-spanning user base and a rising mishandling of data created the perfect storm of opportunism, and soon enough, the personal information of its users became a valuable commodity. This is the social side of Facebook, the part of the platform above the water that’s as warm and cozy as it’s advertised.
Enter Cambridge Analytica – a company who has been collating Facebook user data since 2015 through the use of opt-in (though heavily small-printed) apps in the site, amassing a bloating hoard of over 87 million users’ entire in-site histories. And it just so happens that Cambridge Analytica worked with President Donald Trump’s electoral campaign in 2016, using its collected data to influence potential voters (adding to the already heaping pile of questionable campaign tactics). No matter which way you vote, this sets a terrible precedent.
Obviously, this is a tremendous breach of trust on the part of Facebook – with its massive influence in new media, as well as its integration in basically everything, makes it very hard for many people to avoid using the site.
So is your data secure? Provided below are simple 5 ways you can protect your data:
1. Don’t skip the Terms of Service:
Many times the temptation to simply skim through these lengthy documents heavily outweighs our desire to know what we are agreeing to. In most cases, these documents contain a wealth of information that often goes unnoticed and all it takes is a little attention to uncover those details.
An example of this can be found in Facebooks Terms of Service. Within this document, you can find specific information on exactly what information they gather and how they do it. They also include direct links to many of their additional documents that can provide detailed information on how to unsubscribe to data gathering applications and/or add ons.
2. Stop. Think. Think again. Then Post.
Unlike other forms of communication, online communications stick. Once you say something online, it is out there for good. You can delete it, but the data remains. Nothing will ever truly be deleted from online.
Before you post something private, stop and think. Is this something you really want shared with the world? If so, then by all means, post away and remember that it will be online forever. If you don’t want this information shared, however, then don’t post. It is as simple as that. The less information you put out there, the more privacy you maintain.
3. Ask others not to share your information unless approved:
While we all love having a good time and many people take pictures to save and share these memories, the first thing people forget is that – once posted online – these pictures are no longer just your property. Unless you take steps to secure the photos, sharing them through social media sites like Facebook or Twitter exposes you to the possibility of people you don’t know accessing them and using them for their own purposes.
If you have friends who often tag you in pictures or posts that might contain private information, consider speaking with them and asking them to respect your privacy. The less the post that contains information about you, the better.
4. Adjust your sharing settings:
Most social media sites have sharing settings that allow you to filter who has access to your content. While this won’t fully protect you from companies like Cambridge Analytica, it will allow you to filter out data from those you don’t trust and ensure that strangers cannot pull data from your profile.
5. Get away from it all:
Perhaps more simple in theory than practice, one option that is a sure-fire way to avoid your private information ending up online is to limit your online presence.
Get rid of social media sites that you don’t need: Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, Instagram… the list goes on. If there are any of these places where you don’t want to share your data, then the simplest solution is to remove them.
As it’s said “Better be Safe than Sorry”. Never hesitate to engage a Data Security Partner at any stage. It’s never too late.