Limit the data Facebook shares about you or your friends via websites, games, or apps.
Security audits are an annoying but necessary part of online life. Hacks big and small have compromised the data of countless internet users, so it’s up to you to make sure social networks and apps aren’t scraping more data than they should.
For instance, remember the Cambridge Analytica scandal? It seems like a long time ago—the data used was taken from Facebook in 2014 and the scandal blew up in 2018. But in 2014, that data was easy to get somewhat legally, until the gatherers ran afoul of Facebook and the social network faced an avalanche of bad press. Facebook was shocked (shocked!) this all happened.
But major tech companies make a lot of money off your info, either by mining it to sell you stuff (Facebook has data trackers inside other apps(Opens in a new window)) or by selling it outright to others. The social network has made it somewhat easier for you to protect some of your data, but it certainly didn’t do away with gathering information about you completely. And it never will.
That said, some Facebook account restrictions do exist. However, the tools can be hard to decipher. Implementing some of them may limit what you can do with Facebook; and may limit how you even log into other sites. But it’s a start. Because short of deleting your Facebook account, limiting access to your info as much as you can is a must for some peace of mind.
Limit the Apps and Websites Settings
You first stop is Settings & Privacy > Settings > Apps and Websites. On a smartphone, go to the hamburger menu and follow the same path.
The apps and sites presented have all been given access to your data on Facebook, because you either connected them, or used Facebook credentials to log into them. Conversely, some of them can also post to your Facebook. Click View and Edit to see what’s shared. A pop-up window will display the information each app is accessing; here, change those settings if you’d like to keep it installed but restrict the information to which it has access. Tell apps you don’t want to share your Friends list, timeline posts, status updates, events, etc. It has to be done app by app and site by site.
The page claims to show the “most recent” sites and apps but some of these go back years. Remove anything older than a year; if it’s something you’ll truly use again, you can log back into it later using the app or website in question (unless you block it, see below). Doing so will also “delete posts, videos, or events [the app or site] posted on your timeline.”
When you do remove an app or website you’d logged into via Facebook, you’ll get a warning like this. Doing so may delete your account at the third-party site, and/or any and all activity on the site, even if the account stays intact. You can click an extra box to also kill off any posts, videos, or photos the apps/site posted on Facebook for you.
Once you’ve finished, expect a weasel-y confirmation screen that makes it look like it may take a while for all the info and connections to be destroyed. (You know, how like it takes a while to get a refund to your credit card, even though it’s always instantaneous when you spend money.)
View Removed Apps And Websites
While you’re on that same page, click the View Removed Apps and Websites link to get a pop-up list of all the accesses you’ve removed in the past from your account.
Nuke Third-Party Access
You should also visit Preferences at the bottom of the page, which is where you can turn on or off the ability to log into third-party apps/sites with Facebook in the first place. Click Turn Off next to either entry for Apps, Websites, and Games or Game and Apple notifications.
If you do this, Facebook will no longer connect to any third-party apps or sites with your Facebook credentials. You won’t be able to log into websites or games using Facebook, share with friends between apps, or do any kind of instant personalization. You’ll also get kicked out of any apps you’ve logged into using Facebook.
If you turn it off, then turn it back on, you get logged out of all the apps and websites you have previously used. This is a good way to re-start connecting to only the apps/sites you trust.
Turning off Game and App Notifications means you’ll never see another request from friends to join their annoying games. It doesn’t really spare you any shared info, but may save some friendships.
Turn Off Off-Facebook Activity
Data sharing goes both ways. Facebook is also keeping track of some of your online surfing activities even when you’re not on Facebook itself. That’s because plenty of sites have share data on you with Facebook—mostly via ad links.
But you can view what that data is and clear it. Go to Settings & Privacy > Settings > Your Facebook Information > Off-Facebook Activity. Click Recent Activity to see the full list of sharers. (You’ll probably have to re-enter your Facebook password.)
Click Clear activity history at the top to clean out all the info that Facebook is sitting on—this will disconnect your Facebook from those accounts, if there’s a direct connection. It doesn’t impact the ads you see. You can also click Disconnect Future Activity to make sure the other sites don’t connect in the future. This also prevents you using Facebook for logging into other sites in the future, but you can always go back in to allow future activity/linkage.
None of that is going to stop Facebook and other sites using your browser fingerprint to tell who you are, even without data sharing or even cookies.
Check Up on Your Privacy
If you’re concerned about privacy when using Facebook, do the full privacy checkup(Opens in a new window), which goes through who can see what you share, explain how to secure an account, and more.
For example, under Who Can See What You Share, no one really needs to know your hometown and birthdate—that kind of information is used for security purposes on other sites. Set that to “only me.” Also make sure under the Friends and following section that you limit who can see your full friends list or list of pages you follow—those are used by scammers to find names to make fake profiles with, so they can scam even more people down the road.
Remember, the only true way to have full freedom from the tracking and privacy invasions from Facebook is to never have an account. The next best thing you can do is delete your account (don’t just deactivate it). Also delete your Instagram and WhatsApp(Opens in a new window) accounts; Meta owns them, too.