Facebook Security: Time for a checkup

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Online tracking is something we are all aware is happening.  And, like it or not – if a product is free – you are not the customer – you are the product being sold.

Facebook has gotten in to a load of trouble with how it handles private information… yet it probably has more information about individuals than most any other company.  I find myself using FB less and less, but I do still like seeing what my old friends are up to around the world – so I do log in several times a week.

I thought I had my Facebook privacy pretty locked down, but after seeing Terence Eden’s post, I realised I had more work to do.

I assume others are interested in this too, so I’ll document all the steps I have taken in this post.  We’ll start by opening the settings:

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On your computer (I’m not sure if this is possible on mobile) choose Settings from the carat on the top right.

There are a *lot* of settings… So Let’s go through them all.. Starting with “Your Facebook Information”

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You can download *everything* Facebook has on you. You might want to see what they have.  Your Activity Log is every post, like, thumbs up.. everything.  I’ve been on Facebook for 12 and a half years – thats 5.32 GB of content!!!  I’ll walk through this document in another post.

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Off Facebook Activity

Continuing down the menu, the next option is “Off Facebook Content”

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It’s pretty common knowledge that Facebook is gathering information from your online activity and connecting it back to your FB account.  They use this to serve you “highly targeted” ads (and god knows what else…)

Let’s take a look:

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This was what Terence was discussing in his post.  I knew tehre would be activity here, but I was totally unprepared for how much. When I click the “manage your off facebook activity, there are 822 sites sharing my data with Facebook!!  Who are these monsters?

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In the 5.32 GB download of everything Facebook has on me, there is a directory called “ads and businesses”. IN that link is a page “your+off-facebook_activity.html”:

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When I open that page, there are details about all 822 apps that have details on me:

Let’s look at Strava – I know I have not connected it up with FB. but, in the Full download, I can tell that:

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Every time the app starts up on my phone – Strava tells Facebook.


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BECU is my bank.. Over 20 reports to Facebook Seriously??  mrcooper.com is my mortgage company – 14 reports? In fact, every bank that I have accounts with are in this list. If we look at the full data download:

So BECU reports every time I visit their page – so whenever I login to pay a bill, or to check my balance: Facebook knew:

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Mr. Cooper: Facebook knows every time I visit: and therefore they have a really good idea on when I pay my mortgage.

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They also know what is in your shopping carts – although they don’t report it here. This is the screenshot from the popup on the data they don’t show here:

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This is all terrifying. It goes without saying: click the “Clear History” button at the top of this page.

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Ok, but we’re not done with the sharing of your online data – on the right side of the page there is the “Manage Future Activity”.  You know what to do here.  You’ll get a bunch of “Are you sure?” dialogues, but turn off all future tracking with the slider:

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Ok..I think we’ve nailed that one. Back up to the “Your Facebook Information” menu of settings:

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Next choice is  “managing your information”:

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I’m going to cover Facebook.  If you have an Insta account – you have more work ahead of you.

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<rolls up sleeves>

Manage How Facebook uses Location Data:

This is how the Facebook app collects your location from your phone.  You have to turn this off on the app on the phone.  The instructions on the site sucked for Android – but on your phone: Facebook app -> settings -> privacy settings -> manage your location setting -> location access ->  location services ->turn off.  Yeah – that’s pretty nested, huh?

As you whip through the settings – there’s an option to delete all location history.  Flip that one off as well.

Remove Contacts

Follow the instructions to remove any contact information of our friends that you gave to Big Brother.

Face Recognition

I had this turned off already.  I’m much happier tagging myslef in photos rather than having FB “know” who I am.

Ad preferences

Holy moley – 5 subtopics???

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All five of these are controlled from the Ads menu on the settings page:

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And there are a bunch of settings:

Advertisers and Businesses:

Below are a list of companies that I am rather pissed off with (Oh look, theres my mortgage company again.). And I suppose those knitting needles I bought at HobbyCraft make me a big target.  The scary thing is – I don’t even know about half of these companies (that are uploading my data to Facebook!!

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Other companies uploading my e-mail (allowing FB to connect the dots – Experian?  Don’t they have enough trouble *leaking* data without just uploading it kit-n-caboodle to Facebook?

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As far as I can tell, there is no way to turn this off, because other companies are uploading your info.  Perhaps blocking the connections of data (like we did earlier) is enough to stop this.

Your Information

Hey kids – we should not be sharing *any* of this data to advertisers… I had already turned these all off:

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Ad Settings:

Share nothing my friends.

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Hide Ad Topics

This section can hide ads about alcohol (if you have an addiction, this might be wise), parenting and pets (possibly for coping with a loss).  You can suggest topics for hiding ads.  Come up with a some fun ideas to screw with the algorithm (“eating sushi” was my choice).

Connected apps

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I still had Spotify in this list – this was my push to change my password so I log with a username/password hopefully without Facebook knowing. If you’re cool using Facebook as a login – keep on going.. But I disabled (But please don’t look how many logins Twitter, Github and Google are tracking for me.)

I further disabled this for ever being the case in the future:

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Ok.  Whew.  We jumped around a bit in the settings menu, and we have cleaned up a lot.  But we are not yet completed.


This is how your content appears to others:

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The only thing I allow from everyone is Friend requests (but Im a white guy – so I don’t get any creepy dudes coming into my friend requests.  everything else is locked to just me, or my direct friends.


The earlier setting said to do this on your phone – but there is a setting here as well:

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And with that, we’ve walked through all of the privacy settings that I know about in Facebook.


Facebook’s settings are a maze of complicated steps, and I was surprised about how much had leaked through my settings since I had last done a serious audit of my security settings.  It makes sense to go through these steps regularly, but good lord, we’re all busy and it is a genuine mess – probably intentionally – because it is in Facebook’s best interest to connect everything about each of us.

I hope all these settings were useful, and, please let me know if I missed anything!

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