March 22, 2018 Lucie Towndrow

How To Protect Your Data and Keep Your Social Media Safe

Graham Tester at BBC Radio Norfolk

Keep Your Info Safe and Protect Your Data on Social Media

Following the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica harvesting data from 50 million Facebook profiles during the US presidential election, we ask the question, is your social media really secure? Here’s how to ensure you keep your private information and behaviours safe.

Facebook has long been assessing behaviours for their advertising. They monitor data to create profiles and then advertisers can target specific demographics with personalised adverts. Facebook advertising allows you to specifically target people on a variety of things – many of which are personal. For example, an advertiser could specifically target people who have recently become engaged, or given birth. On the more specific end of the spectrum, you could target people with more than 2 credit cards or people with a mortgage.

facebook ad targeting

Perhaps one of the most effective ways to gather information via Facebook though is through third-party apps. When users agree to download an app and log in through Facebook, Facebook requests basic information. This can include name, personal profile information, friends lists and email addresses. App developers can then use the data combined with other information to create consumer profiles. Unfortunately, Facebook cannot always guarantee what the developers do with the data.

In the aftermath of this data scandal, it’s important you know how to keep your information safe. It’s also important to know who has access to your data. As a Facebook user, you can control the information each app has access to. You can also delete, or remove information collected by an app. However, deleting an app may not remove your information from the developer’s records.

Check Your App Settings

You may think having your privacy settings turned on, on your profile is the most important method of keeping your data secure. Actually, the most important section of Facebook regarding the security of your personal information is the “App Settings” section. In this section, you can see which apps you are allowed access to your data. Remember the funny quiz apps, or the build your own farm apps? Well, unless you’ve removed them from your Facebook or disabled sharing of information, they still have access to your personal info.

If you no longer use an app, remove it from your account. Unlink unused apps, and check the privacy settings of those apps you still use. The argument over storing data relies heavily on the fact advertisers can claim they are providing you with “more customised experiences”, which is how Facebook also support their position on data capture.

Turn Off Apps

If you’re worried about your data, you can completely disable Facebook apps. Stop third-party apps and websites having access to your friend lists, gender, and any information you’ve made public. If you disable Platform, you will not be able to use any games or apps.

facebook app security

If you’ve used an app that has Facebook integrations, you’ll know how tempting it is to login using Facebook rather putting into your email and password. This allows apps specific access to your data though, and you may not have even realised. It may take longer, but protect your data, and login with your email.

Privacy Settings

Another key way of protecting your data is upping your privacy settings. Make sure that nobody except those on your friends list can see your content. Make your photos and status updates private. You can also change whether people can add you as a friend, or see your friends list. Protecting your friends list means that people can no longer see who you are friends with – unless you want them to.

The most important privacy setting in our opinion is whether or not search engines can link to your profile. Sometimes, you may not want your profile easily accessible simply by doing a quick search. This could be for a variety of reasons, especially if you work in a job where you don’t want to be found. For example, teachers want their profiles to be private so that students cannot find them, and see what they have been doing outside of school.

facebook privacy scandal

Tag Settings

We’ve all been tagged in a less than flattering photo. However, there is a way of preventing this from happening. If you edit your tagging controls, photos have to be approved by yourself before they appear on your timeline or in your tagged photos. Go to settings, then timeline and tagging. There, you can give yourself the option to review post to ensure no more embarrassing or risque photos go live without you wanting them to.

Data Protection Advice

Outside of social media, there are other things you should be aware of if you want to keep your data safe. Here are just a few rules and tips you should adhere to if you want to be safe.

  1. When updates are released for your phone and laptop, make sure you do them. This can help to keep your data safe on mobile and PC.
  2. Ensure your passwords are strong and secure. Use special characters, numbers and a mixture of upper and lowercase. For even better security? Use “passphrases” rather than passwords. If you’re really concerned, change your password regularly.
  3. Make sure your computer has proper anti-virus software installed. Also add anti-malware for extra protection.
  4. Make sure your wifi is secure with a password. Try and avoid unsecured wifi networks.
  5. Don’t record your passwords on your laptop or mobile device in notes etc. Store them elsewhere.
  6. Consciously check and configure app privacy settings.
  7. Enable your remote location and device-wiping.

Website Advice

  1. Try not to use a shared IP address. It’s best to use a well-known and reputable hosting company to host your website, as you don’t want to be on a server with thousands of other sites.
  2. If you don’t have an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate for your website, get one now. Not only is site security a Google ranking factor, it’s also essential for any sites where data is entered.
  3. Regularly, and manually update your CMS and website plugins.
  4. Hide your login page by creating a new admin page. For example, avoid /wp-admin and change to /wp-loginpage or something else.
  5. Use extra security that covers brute force and other hacking types – Wordfence and iThemes security will block IP’s from trying.
  6. Use contact forms rather than email addresses as they cannot be added to data lists automatically.

SSL protect your website data

The Law and GDPR

Soon, the general data protection regulation comes into place. This regulation strengthens data protection within the EU. Those who handle data on behalf of controllers (those who determine how and why personal data is processed), now have specific legal obligations. They now have to maintain records of personal data and processing activities. There will also be far more legal responsibility if  these “processorts” are responsible for a data breach. “Valid consent has to be explicitly obtained for any data collected and for the uses to which it will be put”,  according to the Guardian.

The new regulation demands consent. Companies that target and track users invisibly will have to seek consent somehow. Before, users could be traced quietly during purchasing processes and online interactions. Now though, anything that follows a user will have to be known. Express permission must be granted by individuals.

If you listened to our managing director Graham Tester on BBC Radio Norfolk on Thursday 22nd March, you will have got a brief insight into how to keep your data secure, and what the risks are to be aware of on Facebook etc. Following on from the article written by Lucie Towndrow on Facebook users, Graham also spoke about what age demographic are most at risk from data protection scandals.

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