No doubt you’ve heard about Facebook allowing third parties to violate user privacy on an unprecedented scale.

Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics company, gained access to more than 50 million Facebook users' data in 2014 The data was collected, shared, and stored without any user consent at all.

Despite what Facebook might say today the scale of this violation simply mirrors how Facebook’s infrastructure was designed to work.

It wasn’t a data breach it was a way of operating, purely for commercial reasons. Facebook's terms of service and its API (features and functions that allow third parties to use the Facebook platform to develop apps) were structured in such a way that third party developers could wilfully plunder user data without any consequences.

Facebook wanted to push ad revenue and digital activity as much as possible and as result it made itself very friendly to app developers.

Today, Facebook is saying that developers abused it. However, the mountain of evidence suggests they encouraged app developers to do this. Former Facebook insiders also categorically flagged this wholesale personal data plunder to executives who simply didn’t respond.

Back in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO reportedly called its platform users ‘dumb fucks’ for trusting him with their personal data.

Future steps?

If anything the Facebook debacle is reminder of privacy risks that users face when their personal information is captured, analysed and stored indefinitely:
  • This data is typically shared between data brokers, social media companies and those who want to make commercial gain from it.
  • Tech companies should do far more to protect users, including giving them control over what data is collected and how the data is used.
  • For instance data transparency should be the bottom line with independent auditors allowed to look into their systems and see how data is being used and how it is being collected and for how long it is stored
  • Users also need to be able to leave a platform when they want and take their data with them when they do so.

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Take control of your privacy settings

Many people are simply ‘trashing and burning’ their Facebook accounts. A Twitter movement #DeleteFacebook is currently trending which seems to be gathering pace as users recognise that Facebook is not a social network but an advertising network.

However, leaving Facebook for many users is not viable. With this in mind there are some simple steps users that will stop apps and websites from accessing information like your friend list, gender and information you've made public.

You can simply disable all apps on your account. But keep in mind you won’t be able to log into sites using your Facebook login and you won’t be to use games or apps via your Facebook account, including apps such as Twitter, Instagram and others.
  • Go to the small triangle at the top right hand corner of the page, click on it and scroll down to ‘Settings’ and click on it.
  • On the left hand side click on the Apps icon
  • From there, click the ‘Edit’ button under ‘Apps, Websites and Plugins.’
  • Click ‘Disable Platform.’

If you don’t want to disable all apps on the same page there is an option to limit the type of information that apps access.
  • From the same page, click ‘Edit’ under ‘Apps Others Use.’
  • Then uncheck the types of information that you don't want apps to be able to access