Facebook says it shared your data — what you should know now
NEW YORK — If you are one of the 87 million Facebook users notified that data was improperly shared from your account, what do you do next?
Facebook said in a statement that it would let those users know about what data was shared with Cambridge Analytica via a link at the top of their news feed, displaying what apps they used and the information that was shared.
Affected users are receiving one of two messages in their news feed. One mentions a specific app with which the user's information was shared because of a friend. The other describes an app the user used. Both include links so the user can review apps they are using from their Facebook account.
Townsquare Media New Jersey IT consultant Dave Loudon said that even with Facebook's notification, you can't scrub your information that's already been shared.
Facebook is a "big web of data-sucking applications that exist within the Facebook universe that serve primarily to build marketing databases," according to Loudon, who said that the social media outlet exists primarily to collect data.
How was your account affected in the first place? Loudon said that Facebook has allowed marketing aggregators — people who want to get lists of potential names and information that they can market to — to gather data under the guise of polls, games, and other activities online.
"When you get those invitations from your friend who's playing a game ... that person has already given their friend list to the publisher of that game. At that point, you're already on their radar," Loudon said.
Short of disabling an affected account, how can you protect your personal data going forward? By being careful with what you share and play while on Facebook, according to Loudon.
- Sharing: Share posts with friends, not the default setting of a public share. That keeps your information contained to people you know.
- Activity: Loudon said participating in any activity like a poll or game gets your information logged and sold as a data point. "That's not terrible, but be aware that's what you're doing and be aware of the fact of whether you want or don't want people to have that information about you."
- Restrictions: Make your settings as restrictive as possible. Limit your friends or create multiple friend lists, allowing you to choose who gets to see what information. "It's exhaustive. It's a lot of work. Pay attention to what you're clicking every single you do something on Facebook."
Every picture you post of your kids, your dinner and your night out belongs to Facebook, according to Dr. AJ Moore, associate professor of public relations at Rider University, and by using their platform you are indirectly a writer, director, and producer for all social media platforms.
"That is Facebook's proprietary information. You're not just sending the picture to family members, you're basically giving Facebook content. And the more people hear about data sharing, I think they're going to change their perception of Facebook and realize Facebook is just a distribution platform. We as consumers are creating content for them."
All platforms follow the same model, according to Moore: provide an easy way for users to post their content and an attractive platform to share.
Moore said the picture you post of your dinner provides not only provide basic information such as age, residence, political affiliation, and income, but valuable psychographic information that is harder for marketing companies to obtain.
"Our likes, our dislikes, what we see as favorable, what we're not seeing as favorable ... that type of information is difficult for advertisers and marketers to receive. In the past, it took interviews and focus groups for a lot of money," Moore said.
The most drastic way not to share information is to deactivate your Facebook account, according to Moore, who expects backlash from users to force social media platforms to make their options clearer.
"Ultimately, those settings are going to take two or three hurdles to get to which the average consumer doesn't know about. They don't want to do it. They'd rather just share with convenience," Moore said.
But if you do nothing and continue as normal, Moore doesn't see a danger.
"I don't think it's a nefarious plot where the Russians are going to take over our minds. I don't think it's that bad. It's really more about the idea that we as consumers don't want to be manipulated ... we don't want to have someone pushing an invisible hand," Moore said.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg visited with senators in closed-door meetings Monday, previewing the public apology he plans to give Congress on Tuesday after revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a data-mining firm affiliated with Donald Trump's presidential campaign, gathered personal information from 87 million users to try to influence elections.
He's apologized many times already, to users and the public, but it is the first time in his career that he has gone before Congress. Zuckerberg will testify before a joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees on Tuesday and before a House panel on Wednesday.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.