Who’s got your data?

Facebook, data sharing, and the new rules

Unless you’ve been in some kind of black hole where no news coverage can get through, you’re probably aware that election consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica was able to harvest the data of 87 million Facebook users through an app called This Is Your Digital Life. Around 300,000 Facebook users installed the app, which may then have shared data from their friends’ profiles with Cambridge Analytica.

How do I know if Cambridge Analytica accessed my data?

Last time you logged into Facebook, you may have spotted a notice at the top of the page. It starts with “We understand the importance of keeping your data safe”. If you or one of your friends logged into This Is Your Digital Life, that is explicitly stated in the text of the notification.

If you haven’t seen that notification, or you’re not sure you saw that information when it appeared, you can access Facebook’s help centre by clicking or tapping the question mark in the blue navigation bar at the top. Once you’re there, type “Cambridge Analytica” into the search box. Click on the first suggested question and that will tell you whether your data was accessed by the app.

How can I keep my data safe?

Short of deleting Facebook – which you may or may not be willing to do – it’s difficult to protect data that’s already been accessed. In your settings, under “Apps and websites”, you can see a list of all the apps, games and sites that have access to your data. If you want, you can use this section to revoke access by these apps and sites but bear in mind that you may also delete your account in these apps, so you may need to set them up again, signing in without Facebook this time.

Going forward, it’s wise to keep your eyes open. If any website asks you to sign in via Facebook, check that it’s a safe and reliable source before you agree. If you decide to proceed, you will have a chance to check what data the app is designed to access from your profile, and you may be able to opt out of some of those categories by unchecking a tick box next to it.

What is being done to protect my data?

Facebook is in the process of reviewing and overhauling its data protection and privacy procedures. Other bodies, including the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK, are carrying out their own investigations.

By sheer coincidence, a new law is rolling out across Europe in May. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will replace the existing data protection act and force companies to make it a lot clearer what they are doing with user data and whom they are sharing it with. It will also be a lot easier for users to opt out and ask for their data to be removed from the system.

How do I know if companies are following GDPR?

If you’ve subscribed to any mailing lists from retailers, your old university, local clubs or similar, you might already have seen a few messages asking you to confirm whether you’d like to carry on receiving communications from them. This is all part of their preparation for GDPR, and Fingertips is asking you to ‘opt in’ too (if you haven’t seen the email, you can sign up here).

When you sign up for something new, look for a clearly worded privacy policy. It should tell you how or whether your data will be shared and how the company intends to communicate with you, as well as making it clear how you can opt out if you choose to. If you don’t see that information, you can report that site to the ICO.

If you want guidance or advice on changing your Facebook privacy settings, Fingertips can help. Contact us today!