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Facebook privacy breach – making personal profile more private

By: Daniel Ofosu Dwamena

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Facebook, Mr Mark Zuckerberg, on April 10 and 11 appeared before a congressional inquisition of the United States (US) Congress to answer questions on the company’s mishandling of data.

His invitation was prompted by the revelation that Cambridge Analytica, a data-mining firm affiliated with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, gathered personal information from 87 million users to psychologically profile voters during the 2016 US election.

At his testimony before a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees last Tuesday and before a House panel last Wednesday, Mr Zuckerberg apologised many times to users of Facebook and the public for fake news, hate speech, a lack of data privacy and social media interference in the 2016 US election.

According to a media report by the United States Times, Mr Zuckerberg stated that: “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big<

According to him, the app misused some Facebook information by sharing it with the Cambridge Analytica.

He indicated that though the information that was shared from Facebook to the data-mining firm was limited to public profile, page likes, birthday and current city, the company was taking steps to restrict outsiders’ access to people’s personal information.

Despite the assurance made by the CEO of Facebook to strengthen privacy on Facebook, we have exposed ourselves to the merchants of these modern markets with an undistinguishable digital identity. This is a matter of global concern, as well as of deep personal significance.

According to the 2018 Population Stats of Facebook Subscribers, a report by the Internet Wold Stats (IWS), Facebook has over two billion subscribers worldwide, with people managing single or multiple accounts.

The revelation of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, therefore, presupposes that these two billion subscribers are prone to similar privacy breach.

This makes the long-held suspicion about Facebook confirmed; that every post on Facebook, every ‘reaction’, contact on our smartphones, phone calls made and received, and every Google search, was and is still being monitored, collated and monetised into valuable metadata for sale to the best and most strategic bidder.

However, this was not what we signed up onto Facebook for.

It has become important that subscribers get tutorship on how to effectively protect privacy on Facebook to prevent any unintended sharing of personal information to outsiders.

No matter how investigations into the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook saga unfold, we must heed the privacy policy and protect information sharing on social media from insiders who have now come out. The bottom line is: we must use social media, not allow it to use us.

How to make your Facebook profile more private

1: See what your public profile looks like
The first thing you need to do is to find out how much of your Facebook information strangers can see. In doing so, you need to go to your profile page and click the three dots in the bottom right corner of your cover photo. In the drop-down menu that appears, click “View as”.

This will take you to a version of your Facebook page that appears the way it does to users who are not your friends.

Certain information, like your name, current profile picture and cover photo, will always be viewable by strangers but you can determine who sees other kinds of content.

Try scrolling through your profile page in this view to see how many of your posts are publicly viewable to people who aren’t your friends.

2: Decide who can see your posts
During Step One, you may discover you’ve inadvertently been sharing posts with everyone on Facebook. Every time you make a post, Facebook gives you the chance to quickly decide which audience to share it with.

First consider the content you intend to share and in as much choose your audience right from the list of options that Facebook provides.

Note that whatever audience you select for a certain post becomes the default going forward. This means that if you make one “Public” post, Facebook will default to making all your posts “Public” thereafter.

 Making “Public” post a default will inadvertently make most of your posts to be Public. It is, therefore, important to use the buried option which retroactively makes old posts more private.

To do this, click the down arrow in the top right corner of Facebook, then select “Settings” from the drop-down menu. On the Settings screen, click “Privacy” in the left-hand rail, then select “Limit Past Posts” in the “Who Can See My Stuff?” section.

3: Get rid of intrusive apps
We are likely to have given dozens of apps permission to access our Facebook data in order to quickly login or pull up a roster of contacts.

Apps that predicted age, our suitors, number of children to have, what people said about you at your back, among others was the most popular Ghanaian used on Facebook.

We normally do not give much attention to the risks because of the entertainment and pleasure we get in knowing some of the above listed when those apps are used.

Fortunately, Facebook has been keeping track of all those apps and now gives you the ability to restrict particular apps’ access to personal information.

On the Settings screen, select “Apps” in the left-hand rail. You’ll be presented with a grid of all your Facebook-authenticated apps. Click any app and you’ll see an itemised list of every piece of personal information you share with the app, ranging from your birth date to your photos to your location.

You can choose to stop sharing any individual data point or remove the app’s connection to your Facebook account outright.

 You can also turn off an app’s ability to send you Facebook notifications and prevent you from continuing to get false information and things you do not want to see, for instance.

4: Make yourself harder to find
Facebook made all user profiles searchable in 2013, making it easier for other people to find you on the site. However, users still have the ability to stop Google and other search engines from listing your profiles in search results.

On the Settings screen, select “Privacy” in the left-hand rail, then answer “No” to the final question listed, which reads; “Do you want search engines outside of Facebook to link to your profile?”

On the same screen you can also choose whether you want anyone to be able to send you friend requests or only friends of friends.