Facebook, Should I stay or Should I go

We are all concerned about the reports coming out about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica (CA) and rightly so. Was there a data breach or not? This scandal is the modern equivalent of a he said she said, that leaves most of us scratching our heads wondering if we are safe on Facebook or not. Before you decide if you should leave Facebook, here is a very simplified explanation of the scandal so far.

Was there a data breach?

First, the main question is, was our data leaked or was it a data breach? It is true that Cambridge Analytica tracked the data of 50 million Facebook users, but if that was a data breach or not will be up to you. The facts we know: Cambridge Analytica tracked our data using our Facebook profiles and then targeted us with personalized political ads. They did this using an app developer Kogan, and their personality test application called, thisisyourdigitallife to get your information. This application claimed to be a “research app used by psychologists”.  It is also true that only 270,000 users signed up to use the personality quiz, but when these users agreed to the terms and conditions for this personality quiz, they also agreed to give Kogan access to their personal profile data and that of their friends profile pages. This is how 270,000 becomes 50 million. Facebook allowed this behavior in applications  but the data gathered was supposed to be used to improve user experience, not to be sold or used for advertisement.  So the question becomes, if we grant permission to applications to gather data can it be considered a data breach?

User Friendly Experience

Facebook says they found out in 2015 about the data being sold from Kogan to Cambridge Analytica, breaking Facebook’s platforms policies. At this point the story changes from a possible data breach to if Facebook followed up diligently about the deletion of the data that was shared to 3rd parties by approved applications. There is another question, does Facebook makes it easy enough for users to remove approved applications and change their privacy settings?  Whether you feel Facebook did enough to make sure the mismanaged data out there was deleted or not is one thing. I mean how could anyone really make sure all the data is deleted? But the argument that Facebook doesn’t do enough to make it easy for us to protect our data is a very important piece to this scandal and we feel it is the most important part. The security and privacy setting on Facebook may not equate to a user friendly experience, and could be the deciding factor on if you should stay or delete your Facebook profile.

 Are you prepared to take the extra time?

At the end of the day, the main question everyone wants the answer to is, should we delete our Facebook profile? We cannot answer that question for you, but we can ask a few questions to help you decide. First question, does it bother you that your data may be used to help companies in targeted marketing aimed at you? If your answer is no, then this is a non issue and you can keep your Facebook profile. If you answered yes, then another question. Do you mind taking the time to read the terms and conditions on what permissions you are granting applications when you connect them to you Facebook Profile? If you answer yes, then you may consider deleting your Facebook profile.  At the end of the day, you give the data to Facebook. So if you are not prepared to take the extra time to read the terms you are agreeing too, and you don’t want your data shared, then the best way to prevent it is to not have a Facebook at all.

Facebook is updating user settings

If you do decide it is worth the risk to keep your Facebook Profile and you want to be more diligent about your access permissions we have good news. Facebook is updating it’s security and privacy settings so you can have more control over your data and privacy. Our friends over at Naked Security broke it down best in an recent article, the new changes include the following.

Security and privacy settings changes fall into these three buckets:

  • A simpler, centralized settings menu. Facebook redesigned the settings menu on mobile devices “from top to bottom” to make things easier to find. No more hunting through nearly 20 different screens: now, the settings will be accessible from a single place. Facebook also got rid of outdated settings to make it clear what information can and can’t be shared with apps. The new version not only regroups the controls but also adds descriptions regarding what each involves.
  • A new privacy shortcuts menu. The dashboard brings together into a central spot what Facebook considers to be the most critical controls: for example, the two-factor authentication (2FA) control; control over personal information so you can see, and delete, posts; the control for ad preferences; and the control over who’s allowed to see your posts and profile information.
  • Revised data download and edit tools. There will be a new page, Access Your Information, where you can see, and delete, what data Facebook has on you. That includes posts, reactions and comments, and whatever you’ve searched for. You’ll also be able to download specific categories of data, including photos, from a selected time range, rather than going after a single, massive file that could take hours to download.

This scandal is huge mess and a sign of the times. We live in an age where we want everything simplified and connected even if we don’t know how it works or why. Our best defense is to education ourselves on how these social platforms function and read the terms and conditions before you click accept. Although it is fun to blame a billion dollar company, at the end of the day we are responsible for our data and nothing will change if we do not accept responsibility to protect our data. So let us know, did you decide to keep Facebook or go?