COLUMN

LET’S TALK #SOCIAL | How to protect your Facebook data and privacy

From the pages of The Manila Times

NOEMI LARDIZABAL-DADO

I am one of the 1.175 million Filipinos and among 87 million users worldwide whose data was improperly shared by Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm. I did not log in to the This Is Your Digital Life app before Facebook removed it from their platform in 2015 but a friend of mine did.

This data breach was revealed to me, based on information from the link facebook.com/help/yourinfo. It says information likely shared with This Is Your Digital Life is my public profile, Page likes, birthday and current city, which is fine because I was aware these were my public settings. Apparently, “a small number of people who logged into This Is Your Digital Life also shared their own News Feed, timeline, posts and messages, which may have included posts and messages from you.” What I found disturbing is the access to my private messages, which was never part of the Data Policy under Facebook Terms of Service.

I take extra effort to secure my data and privacy but the possibility of being hacked or unauthorized access happens. Facebook is a great way to keep in touch but the Cambridge Analytica Data scandal has put data privacy under scrutiny. I took the following action to make my Facebook a bit more private:

Implement protective strategies for digital privacy and security

Last week, I discussed “10 things you can do to secure your data” and you might find it useful for your own digital protection. Ensuring data security is simply one of the means to the desired end, which is data privacy. Though the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Data scandal was outside my control, any data breach might happen again so it is still wise to have these protective strategies in place.

Limit or turn off third-party apps and games in Facebook

One of the first things I did was limit or turned off the third-party apps, or those not developed by Facebook. These apps have access to Facebook users’ profiles such as your friends’ list, birthday, education history, city, and hometown. Hopefully, Facebook removed third-party access to my private messages but I am mindful that my messages do not contain sensitive information.

A privacy check-up under the “Quick Help” Section allows you “to review how you’re currently sharing your information with people on Facebook and with the apps and websites from other companies that you’ve used Facebook to log into”. If such settings do not make you feel safe, you can choose to delete or deactivate your account.

Adjust ad preferences

Facebook model is running ads and there is no way to opt out except for the type of ads that appear in your timeline. Under the ad option of your settings, you will learn what influences the ads you see and then take control over your ad experience. Some of the ads you see are there because advertisers are trying to reach people based on information provided on their profile.

Use Signal for a more secure conversation

Signal is a messaging app that has strong encryption. It’s free like most messaging apps and it works on every mobile platform and even on the desktop. It does not have the bells and whistles of most apps, but you can make calls, send photos, videos, and documents. As long as both parties use the Signal app to message each other, every message sent is encrypted. Most of my Facebook friends are still not on board so I still use Messenger, Viber, WhatsApp , Telegram, Twitter direct message, and iMessage.

Create a public profile

Once I established my public profile as someone engaged in citizen advocacy, social media practice, and technology, I minimize “liking” posts outside my public interests. If you are concerned about how anyone can see and know your interests or political views, then make sure to set your post to friends only. Before you “like” or comment a post, check if the poster’s settings are for “friends only.”

It is also prudent to think before you click that emotional or brain teaser post unless you know the person who created the original post. It might be a like-farming post, where scammers post an attention-grabbing story on Facebook for the purpose of gathering likes and shares. This is also true for fan page or cute pet animal pages, which might just be converted to a “political page,” spam, or scam page one day.
Submit a complaint with the National Privacy Commission (NPC).

Maybe you don’t need this but since my personal data was improperly disposed by Facebook,  I filed a complaint with NPC, “the country’s privacy watchdog; an independent body mandated to administer and implement the Data Privacy Act of 2012. They also monitor and ensure compliance of the country with international standards set for data protection.” I wanted to know which of my messages were compromised. The complaint is still with the Facebook team as of this writing.

It is important to know your data privacy rights such as the right to be informed; the right to access; the right to object; the right to erasure or blocking; the right to damages; the right to file a complaint; the right to rectify; and the right to data portability. The NPC website states that “if you feel that your personal data has been misused, maliciously disclosed, or improperly disposed, or if any of your data privacy rights have been violated, you have every right to file a complaint with the NPC.” One can submit a complaint at the main page of their website at privacy.gov.ph.

From the pages of The Manila Times

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *