Facebook’s handling of users’ data with Cambridge Analytica has added to the controversial debate about the use of personal data. From the British Government requesting that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg answer Parliamentary Committee questions (he declined but is sending senior deputies in his stead), to the Information Commissioner’s Office investigation of Cambridge Analytica, even a strange public spat between Zuckerberg and the CEO of Apple – Tim Cook – over appropriate privacy controls, the story is a harbinger of what is to come in Europe after GDPR takes effect on the 25th May.
In a previous piece for BBC Mundo in November 2016, Jim Wheeler – CEO of ReSolve Cyber – had specifically cited the activities of Cambridge Analytica as proof positive of Facebook’s evolving status from a social network to “a political actor.” For such an actor, the use of your data goes beyond commercial interests to political ones, without your knowledge.
The problem is obvious: how can you own your online privacy again? It is a common truism online that if you are not the customer then you are the product, paying not with money but by allowing sites like Facebook to use your data. With concerns in this case ranging up to unethical use of user data for political purposes, it is high time that users wake up to the matter of how to begin owning your privacy once more.
So what can you do? For many, #DeleteFacebook may not be a viable option, but you can begin to take greater ownership of your digital privacy through simple measures:
- Use a different email address for Facebook
- By using a standalone address for Facebook, you avoid your main email address and contacts from being harvested.
- Check your privacy settings
- Customising who can see your content, and if search engines can link to your profile, will help reduce your data footprint.
- Know how to access your own data
- Facebook offers a tool to download your own historic data to inspect.
- Subject Access Requests (SAR) are part of the Data Protection Act (1998), allowing you to not only retrieve your data, but demand information on how your data has been used.
- Use alternative messenger apps
- Facebook Messenger is known to harvest smartphone address books, you can mitigate this by using alternative apps such as Signal for Instant Messaging.
- Avoid quizzes and questionnaires
- Quizzes such as those used by Cambridge Analytica are not unique; avoid being profiled by simply not doing quizzes on Facebook.
by Danny Steed, PhD, Head of Strategy ReSolve Cyber