Facebook. To Share, or Not To Share.

Last month Facebook appeared in the news for weeks.  Due to a firm by the name of Cambridge Analytica which collected data from 50+ million Facebook users, it is believed that the company supposedly used this information to influence voter behavior during the US presidential election and UK’s Brexit campaign.

We all know that Facebook is a very popular platform for developing brand awareness, not to mention the millions of families who post photos and all sorts of information to be shared online.  Have you wondered if your data is still safe after the recent data breach scandal?

Let’s rewind back to 2014.  A Facebook personality quiz app which was called “This is Your Digital Life” was developed by a data scientist.  Tens of thousands of Facebook users signed up and released information about themselves in exchange for humorous results.  In 2015, this was removed from the Facebook platform.  The app collected not just the data of the people who took the quiz, but also — “thanks to Facebook’s loose restrictions — data from their friends, too, including details that they hadn’t intended to share publicly.” 1

What the quiz takers didn’t know was the firm that the data scientist worked for had stuck a deal with Cambridge Analytica to share the information that was gathered, including the mined data about the users’ friends.

The information collected was based on:

  • Activities on Facebook, and the information that was disclosed to Facebook
  • Facebook connections, networks, messages, photos and other content that other users sent
  • Payments handled by Facebook
  • Your location
  • Devices that were used for Facebook access
  • Apps and websites which use Facebook services
  • Data from other platforms that are also owned by Facebook, including Instagram and WhatsApp
  • Advertisers and other third-party partners.

What happened next was Cambridge Analytica analyzed the data and created psychological profiles to invent better political drives to influence how people would vote.  There is still a debate about how effective the plan was, but, there’s no doubt that thousands and thousands of users were manipulated in to signing away data without knowing it.

Here is what you can do to keep information safe from data-harvesting apps and programs.

  • Audit Your Facebook Apps. If you used Facebook to sign in to a third-party website, game or app, those services may continue to access your personal data.  “On Facebook, go to the settings page and click on the Apps tab to see which apps are connected to your account. From there, you can take a closer look at the permissions you granted to each app to see what information you are sharing. Remove any apps that you find suspicious or no longer use. (Facebook has also made some changes to prevent the gathering of detailed information of friends of users.)” 2

“On the App Settings page there is another setting called Apps Others Use. This is where you choose which details are shared about you when your friends use apps. Make sure to uncheck all the boxes if you don’t want any of your information, like your birthday or hometown, accessed by your friends’ apps.” 3

  • If you are concerned about what details apps can see about you and your Facebook friends, now is a good time to check your privacy settings and minimize the information you share publicly. For example, you can make sure that only your friends can see your Facebook posts, or that only you can see your friends list. 4


Read privacy policies. When you sign up for a new app or web tool, the company typically asks you to agree to its terms of service.  Be sure to carefully read the terms and the privacy policy.  If you see language that you do not understand, or, which suggests your data could be shared in a way that makes you uncomfortable, don’t use the program.