Tips & Advice

Privacy Refresh: Simple steps to take back your privacy from Facebook

Emma McGowan, 16 November 2020

Take control of your privacy on Facebook with these practical daily tasks

\The first week of our Privacy Refresh is all about Facebook. When it comes to collecting information about people, there’s really no social media company that does it quite like they do. While they didn’t invent the “free” social media in exchange for a data model that we’ve all come to know and (not) love in the past couple decades, they’ve certainly perfected it. Facebook collects extensive data both on platform and off — and even has data on you if you don’t have an account.

While the social media company says that it “doesn’t sell” your data to advertisers, that’s not quite true. While they don’t sell personal identifying information like your name and the contents of your posts, they do sell the aggregate data they gather on you. That information is arguably more revealing than your name alone, as it includes everything from your likes and dislikes to your moods to the things you buy to who you talk to… And the list goes on.


Further reading:
Get control of your social media with our Privacy Refresh


Basically, your Facebook profile is the best way to sell you things that advertisers have ever seen. 

If Facebook having so much information about you makes you feel gross, here are six super simple steps you can take this week in order to get back some of your privacy. Each one shouldn’t take more than five minutes and most take even less than that. Get ready: It’s time to start your Privacy Refresh.

Monday: Put each step into your calendar

That’s it! That’s all you have to do today. Pick a convenient time that will work every day and put that week’s task into the calendar. (We recommend the same time every day, if possible, because it’s easier to remember.) Make sure to set up some kind of notification, like a pop-up on your phone. This simple action will make it much more likely that you’ll actually do each of the steps this week, so don’t skip it!

Another suggestion: Put the full text of each tip into the actual calendar event. That way you don’t have to go searching for this article every day — you can just click on the notification when it pops up and have everything you need, right there.

Tuesday: Revoke app and game permissions

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably signed into other apps and websites with your Facebook login details. While this is super convenient, it also gives those sites access to your data and gives Facebook more information about you. Similarly, any games you used to play still have access to your data if you haven’t revoked it.

In order to see which apps are still connected to your account, click on the arrow in the top right hand corner of your screen. That will bring up a drop-down menu. Click Settings and then Apps and Websites. Once you’re in there, you can revoke permissions by clicking “Remove” or you can choose what data the apps and games you still use have access to.

Wednesday: Delete the categories used to target you

Facebook collects your data so that they can sell it to advertisers. But did you know that you can actually decide what data they collect? This is our longest step of the week — and we’re splitting ads into two days because of it — but stick with us, because it’s worth it.

In that same Settings area, click on “Ads.” Another screen will pop up, with information about advertisers you’ve seen, ad topics you can restrict, and then Ad Settings. That last one is where the magic happens.

Under “Categories used to reach you,” you can decide which bits of data advertisers use to target you. Toggle off employer, job title, education, and relationship status and then go down to “interest categories.” You can choose to remove any or all of these, which will make it more difficult for companies to target you.

However, there’s no “remove all” button (which means it might take a little while) and it’s worth noting that Facebook explicitly says “We may still show you ads related to these categories if we think these ads may be relevant to you.” Cool, cool. Not shady at all, right?

Thursday: Finish locking down ad tracking

Today, we’re going to tackle the last two ads sections. While yesterday was a hassle, luckily “Audience-based advertising” — which is the next section in ads and which determines which advertisers can target you based on their own lists — does let you opt out of all the options in one click. 

But, of course, it’s a little bit difficult to find. Click “Data Management” at the top of list and then click “They uploaded or used a list to reach you.” Then click “Don’t Allow” for both sections. A popup will likely appear asking if you want to do this. Keep strong and click again to make sure you can’t be targeted this way.

Finally, go to “Ads Shown off of Facebook” and toggle to “Not Allowed.” This makes it so that advertisers can’t buy ads that target you using Facebook data that are then shown off of Facebook. Confusing, I know, but it’s part of their model.

Phew! You’ve now taken back a major part of your privacy from Facebook. And while there’s no way to delete previously collected information — nor can you stop ads altogether — you can rest assured that significantly less info will be collected on you moving forward.

Friday: Turn off Face Recognition

Facebook uses facial recognition technology to recommend friends tag each other. While they don’t seem to be using it for nefarious purposes yet, there’s no telling what could be done with that data set in the future. So, today, go into settings and click Face Recognition in the left toolbar. Click “Edit” and the the drop down menu for “no.”

Saturday: Turn off Location History

Location History is one of those settings that actually way creepier than Facebook tries to make it out to be. It allows Facebook to track and catalogue your “precise locations” in order to “help explore what’s around you” by using the Location Services on your cellphone.

If you’ve already turned off Location Services on your phone, you can skip this step. But if you haven’t, go in to Location in the Settings toolbar; then Edit; then toggle down to “Off” in the drop down menu. In order to delete any previously collected data, go into Location History in the Settings on your phone and delete it there. 

Sunday: Learn too much about your elementary school BFF’s life

Finally, on Sunday, use Facebook for what it’s best for: Learning way too much about the lives of people you don’t talk to anymore! Or, you know, whatever your favorite Facebook activity is. Indulge. You earned it. 

Tune in next Monday for Part 2 of our Privacy Refresh: Instagram!