How to change Facebook data sharing settings

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Facebook collects a lot of data about its users, both on and off the platform. Here’s how to regain some privacy.

A technology outage and denunciations about Facebook’s priorities have renewed discussions about the company’s ethics, including what it does with user data.

Whether account holders realize it or not, Facebook’s default privacy settings allow the company to record a wealth of personal data: every video they’ve watched, search history, their location when logged in on a mobile device, what their face looks like, and more. Following.

Your data is extremely valuable

Personal information is a critical part of the business behind the massive social network, which currently hosts 2.9 billion monthly active users.

While the company says it doesn’t sell personal data like names or posts, it does collect user information that is compiled into anonymous profiles and shared with advertisers looking to target a narrow customer base.

According to a July 2021 earnings report, advertising accounted for $ 28.5 billion of the company’s $ 29 billion total second-quarter revenue for 2021.

Some of this data is voluntarily disclosed by users, although they may not be aware of exactly how it is used in the advertising process.

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How advertisers use your data

The default privacy settings for each Facebook account allow the company to share employer, job title, educational background, and user relationship status with advertisers, although account holders have the option to withdraw.

Then there are the “interests” that Facebook deduces from users. These categories are based on activities such as clicking on an ad or “liking” a page.

Account holders can remove specific interest categories from their profiles, but there is no option to opt out of the process altogether.

With the exception of ads deemed discriminatory, advertisers can tailor their campaigns based on location, demographics, interests, consumer behavior, and whether or not a person follows the business on Facebook.

In its privacy settings, Facebook shares this example of how it uses this type of information to target an online advertisement:

An advertiser whose ads are for sneakers may choose the interest category “Running” as the target audience for those ads or people who have added “Personal Trainer” as their job title on their profile.

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Facebook argues that ad targeting benefits small businesses and shows users content that is relevant to their interests.

“Personalized advertising helps people discover new products and brands, and it allows businesses of all sizes (not just those with the biggest budgets) to reach people who might be interested in what they deliver, ”the company said.

Jonathan S. Weissman, a senior lecturer in the Department of Computer Security at the Rochester Institute of Technology, disagrees.

“Despite the fact that it’s scary, the inherent benefits of seeing advertisements that you might be interested in, it’s not worth the risk of your privacy and personally identifiable information being released,” he said.

“There is almost nothing that Facebook doesn’t know about you,” he added.

More than in-game online shopping habits

Studies have shown that it is possible to extrapolate with a high degree of precision other more sensitive characteristics of users based on their activity on Facebook.

A 2013 study published by researchers at the University of Cambridge found that Facebook “likes” could predict personal attributes such as sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, traits personality, intelligence, happiness, substance use, parental separation, age and gender. .

A second study in 2015 strengthened the power of “likes” to predict sensitive personal information. Researchers found that a computer that analyzes “likes” was better able to predict a person’s personality than their Facebook friends.

The authors of the 2013 study suggest that accessing otherwise private personal information could be harmful or dangerous.

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“Business firms, government institutions, or even their Facebook friends could use software to infer attributes such as intelligence, sexual orientation, or political opinions that an individual might not have intended to. share, ”they wrote.

According to the New York Times, a little over a year after the publication of the 2013 study, a professor in the same lab who knew the process of creating psychological profiles from “likes” would start collecting data. personal information from 87 million Facebook users under a misleading company name: “Cambridge Analytica”.

Facebook banned this researcher, Aleksandr Kogan and his affiliates, from the platform in 2018.

The company has stated that personal identity information is not used for advertising purposes.

“Advertisers can use the targeting options we provide when creating an ad, which include interests based on engagement on Facebook, such as liking a page and clicking an ad; but these interests are not based on attributes or characteristics of a person, such as their religious affiliation. or sexual orientation, “Facebook said in a statement.

Facebook tracks users’ web traffic off its site

The social network does not only monetize data when users are logged into its platform. The company also follows people on millions of other websites through an advertising tool called Facebook Pixel.

It’s unclear how many websites are currently using Facebook Pixel, but Weissman said it was “mind-boggling.”

Facebook did not respond to a question about the current number of websites using the software.

For users concerned about the company’s tracking of their personal information, there are ways to regain some privacy.

Here’s how you can delete data stored off-platform and turn off future off-platform tracking.

To delete an existing off-platform activity, follow the following prompts:

  • Expand “Account Settings” via the arrow in the upper right corner
  • Settings and privacy
  • Privacy shortcuts
  • View or delete your activity outside of Facebook
  • Clear story
  • Clear story
  • Expand the hamburger menu in the lower right corner
  • Settings and privacy
  • Settings
  • Activity outside Facebook
  • Clear story
  • Clear story

To prevent Facebook from collecting future off-platform activity, follow the following prompts:

  • Settings and privacy
  • Settings
  • Ads
  • Ads settings
  • Ads posted on Facebook
  • Disable the “authorized” button
  • Expand the hamburger menu in the lower right corner
  • Settings and privacy
  • Settings
  • Activity outside Facebook
  • More options
  • Manage future activity
  • Manage future activity
  • Disable the “Future of Facebook activity” button



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