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Protecting yourself from Facebook

Ugh, Facebook, amiright?

You’ve probably seen the news about how awful FB is about privacy, and how they’ve been sucking up all the info they can squeeze out of you and giving it to advertisers and other billion dollar companies.

How can you mitigate this?

You may be thinking it’s too late, or that what you do doesn’t matter, but neither of those things are true. Facebook is *continually* harvesting data from you and while they may have a lot of data about you already, you can start now to stem the flow. If you’re reading this from America or Europe, you’re some of Facebook’s most valuable users, so your actions *do* have an impact. If you’re reading this from somewhere else, Facebook is desperately trying to grow in your area, so blunting their data collection hurts their long term prospects. Either way, you’re making a difference!

Uninstall the FB apps and use your mobile browser instead

Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp, and Instagram are all stealing as much info from you as possible. For instance, here’s some of the permissions Instagram uses:

Why on earth does a photo app need to know about your phone calls? Or connect to Bluetooth?

Uninstall the apps! Instead, use the web versions. For instance, instead of having the Facebook app, I have a link to Facebook’s website on my phone. On Android, all you have to do is go to Chrome, visit Facebook, click the three dots next to the address bar, and click Add to Home Screen. On iOS you can do something similar with Safari.

On Android, you can also disable specific permissions – so feel free to go to settings and click off all those weird ones!

…Or use a replacement app

Some FB apps have obviously better alternatives – WhatsApp being the most obvious one. Regardless of FB’s privacy sins, you should be using Signal instead. I really can’t say this enough. Signal is the best private, internet based messenger out there, and frankly, I don’t trust WhatsApp when it says it’s encrypted end-to-end. I certainly am not willing to give them access to the rest of my phone just for internet messaging.

Log out of FB when you’re not using it

Facebook tracks you as you traverse the web. If you’re logged in, many websites can track you as well. So, log out when you’re not actively using Facebook, and, if possible, delete the Facebook’s cookies from your browser as well.

Enter the wrong information

Facebook makes its money based on advertising to you based on what you do on the site, as well as the internet more generally. You make this much harder when you add fake info, and the less effective their advertising, the more you hurt them. Here are some fun ideas:

  • Change your name on FB – maybe a slight misspelling, maybe abbreviate a part of it, or maybe make it something else entirely
  • Change your birth year to something outside your normal demographic. Are you 18-34? Well now change it so you’re 41 years old
  • ‘Unlike’ things you’ve liked in the past, and ‘like’ things you don’t care about
  • If you have the app installed, Facebook is listening; so, speak in glowing terms about a product you will never buy
  • Change your political affiliation
  • Add non-family members as your family
  • Add fake past employers

Generally, just mess with them. They want your info so they can target ads to you specifically. Make that hard.

Clear out old info

Delete old pictures. Unlike things. Clear your ‘About me.’ Unfriend people.

Yes, Facebook will still have that info. But advertisers won’t be able to target you for it. When people go on FB to make an ad, they can select from a wide range of demographic features – but nowhere does it say “Target people who liked Anchorman a few years ago but don’t any more.”

What do you think? Are you going to try any of these? Let me know! Or if you’re familiar with these challenges, let me know if there’s something I missed!

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