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Delete Your Facebook After Cambridge Analytica?

I’ve written A LOT about Facebook in the past.

  • What not to post
  • What not to like
  • What not to click on
  • How to keep your kids safe
  • How to keep your data protected
  • How to delete your account

ETC! Search specific topics here.

And personally, I’m ashamed of myself for knowing exactly how social networks like Facebook take advantage of users and our data, and yet still have a Facebook profile. I’m not just sharing my information, Facebook is also sharing everyone of my “friends’” Information through me. I’m currently thinking that the only way to protest this gross misuse is data is to delete my profile (which still won’t purge my historical data, but will stop future leakage).

And yes, I’ve written several times about how Facebook is allowed to sell your privacy.  Now, it turns out the practices I have warned about for years are taking over our headlines with a “little” news bit about how Cambridge Analytica has used data obtained from Facebook to affect the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

Here’s a brief timeline:

  • In 2014, a Soviet-born researcher and professor, Aleksandr Kogan, developed a “personality quiz” for Facebook.
  • When a user took the quiz, it also granted the app access to scrape his or her profile AND the profiles of any Facebook friends. (Incidentally I was writing about why you shouldn’t take those quizzes right about the time all of this data was being gathered!  And, it was totally legal at that time!)
  • About 270,000 people took the quiz. Between these users and all of their friend connections, the app harvested the data of about 50 million people.
  • This data was then used by Cambridge Analytica to help them target key demographics while working with the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election.
  • Facebook learned of this in late 2015 and asked everyone in possession of the data to destroy it. (They did not, however, tell those affected that their data had been harvested.)
  • The company said it did, and Facebook apparently left it at that.

That takes us up to recent days, when The Guardian and The New York Times wrote articles claiming that the firm still has copies of the data and used it to influence the election.

What’s happening now?

  • Facebook has suspended Cambridge Analytica from its platform, banning the company from buying ads or running its Facebook pages.
  • The Justice Department’s special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has demanded the emails of Cambridge Analytica employees who worked for the Trump team as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the election.
  • The European Union wants data protection authorities to investigate both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. The UK’s information commissioner is seeking a warrant to access Cambridge Analytica’s servers.

And what should you be doing?

Consider deleting your profile. I am. I’ve written about how to do that before and how to weigh deactivating your account versus deleting it. Consider carefully before making that choice.

Remember that the real illusion about Facebook is that there is anything significant we can actually do to protect our privacy. Facebook provides an effective privacy checkup tool, but it does nothing to limit the data that Facebook sees, or that Facebook decides to share with organizations willing to buy it, or even that hackers decide to target.

The data you’ve already shared on Facebook, from your profile to your posts and pictures is already lost. There is nothing you can do to protect it now. The only data you can protect is your future data that you choose to not share on Facebook.  Here are my suggestions for a few pro-active steps you can take right now:

  • Delete or deactivate your Facebook profile
  • Reread my post about Facebook Privacy from 2013—unfortunately, all of it still applies today!
  • Memorize this phrase: “Anything I put on Facebook is public, permanent and exploitable.”
  • Tell some little white lies on your profile.
  • And stop taking those quizzes!

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on cybersecurity, identity theft and online privacy. He specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Internet Providers Lose Right to Sell Your Privacy (But Facebook & Google Still Can)

“There is a basic truth: It is the consumer’s information. It is not the information of the network the consumer hires to deliver that information.” 

These were the words of Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the F.C.C., when it was announced that Federal regulators have approved new broadband privacy rules that require internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon to ask for customers’ permission before using or sharing much of their data. He went on to say that the information used “should be the consumers’ choice, not the choice of some corporate algorithm.”

Privacy groups were, of course, thrilled with the new rules, which move the United States closer to the stricter policies in European nations.  The industries that depend on online user data were not quite as happy, with the Association of National Advertisers labeling the regulations “unprecedented, misguided, counterproductive, and potentially extremely harmful.”

What does all of this really mean for consumers?

• A broadband provider has to ask a customer’s permission before it can tell an advertiser exactly where that customer is by tracking her phone and what interests she has gleaned from the websites she’s visited on it and the apps she’s used.

• Major broadband providers will have about one year to make the changes required by the new rules. After that, users will be notified of new privacy options through email or dialogue boxes on websites.

• The F.C.C. rules apply only to their broadband businesses.

• After the rules are in effect, broadband providers will immediately stop collecting sensitive data, including Social Security numbers and health data, unless a customer gives permission.

• For some less-private data, like names and addresses, there’s a more lenient approach. As with any online service, you should assume that broadband providers can use that information and you should “opt-out” of letting them do so.

• One “down side” to consider is that there is a chance that the removal of ads that allow for free and cheaper web services will result in those prices being passed on to consumers.

• Online ad giants, including Google, Facebook and other web companies, are not subject to the new regulations as the F.C.C. does not have jurisdiction over web companies. So Google does not have to explicitly ask people permission first to gather web-browsing habits, for example.

• AT&T, Verizon and Comcast will also still be able to gather consumers’ digital data, though not as easily as before. They will also still be able to purchase data from brokers.

Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) summed it up pretty clearly:  “Just as telephone companies are not allowed to listen in to our calls or sell information about who we talk to, our internet providers shouldn’t be allowed to monitor our internet usage for profit.”

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.