How to protect your personal data from third party apps

 

Data has overtaken oil as the world’s most valuable commodity and in the wake of allegations that Cambridge Analytica has misused the personal data of millions of users a serious debate needs to be opened on the restraints and regulations on those who control its flow.

Extensions, apps and quizzes programmed by third parties allow users to register accounts and log in by using their Facebook profile in lieu of registering with the application directly. Utilising Facebook as a login tool is easy as it removes the additional process of registering with the third party i.e Spotify, Strava, Tinder etc…

Cambridge Analytica harvested information from millions of Facebook users using, what appeared to be a benevolent personality quiz called, ‘This is your digital life’. The application acted as nothing more than a shop front to collect personal data to garner sophisticated profiles on the user’s likes, dislikes, lifestyle preferences and perhaps most worryingly of all political leanings.

Professor Alexsandr Krogan

The app billed as a personality predictor quiz was designed by University of Cambridge Professor Aleksandr Kogan was downloaded by around 270,000 people according to Facebook. In doing so the users gave their data away and depending on their privacy settings they also granted access to information about their Facebook friends as well resulting in a data breach affecting 50 million accounts.

The social media giant has in turn suspended Strategic Communications Labrarortries; Cambridge Analytica’s parent company pending an investigation that the firm sold the user data to the Trump presidential campaign.

Facebook says that the mining of the information was all proper and aboveboard, the users knowingly or unknowingly consented to have their data collected through the small print in the terms and conditions.
However, Facebook has argued that the users did not consent to their data to be given away and when the data gathered from the app was sold to Cambridge Analytica it violated the social media platforms policies against sharing data & information with a third party.

The amount of personal information these apps store on us and how this data paints a profile that could be sold on to third parties, may they be advertising agencies, business enterprises or political campaigns demonstrates a massive potential risk.

To ensure your data is safe from potential manipulation you may want to readvise which apps you have connected to Facebook and their privacy settings.  Follow our guide below to make changes to any applications you may be using on Facebook.

1. Click the drop-down arrow on the top righthand side of the homepage and select settings.

 

2. Find the Apps button on the lefthand side of the page and select.

3. The following page will show you which applications are connected through Facebook.

 

 

4. To remove an application click the grey X on the righthand side that appears when you hover over the app.

 

 

 

5. Click Remove

 

 

6. After organising your privacy setting and removing the apps you no longer want to be associated with your Facebook account one should be wary of the ‘Apps others use’ privacy settings.
This rather hidden section controls the amount of your personal data the apps your friends have downloaded have access to.

 

7. Opt out of sharing any personal information you do not want third-party apps to access and click save.

This is an exceptionally invasive permission that the user unwittingly grants, goes unnoticed by the vast majority of Facebooks users but this is what is at the very heart of the Cambridge Analytica controversy.

Currently, given Facebook’s algorithm and business model, the only definitive way to ensure the privacy of your personal information and to save yourself from falling victim to malevolent misinformation is to abstain from the website or to #DeleteFacebook.

David Aston

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