Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has arrived on Capitol Hill. What happens next could be big.
Zuckerberg will spend two days answering lawmakers’ questions about the powerful social network he helped create more than a decade ago, and whether the company is doing enough to protect users’ privacy.
It’s the first time Zuckerberg will personally sit for questions from Congress, instead of sending a deputy. His testimony marks a pivotal moment for Facebook and the tech industry. Whatever transpires, time will tell.
But if you do not want to a fish in Facebook’s net or a crop being harvested for political or commercial gains, here’s what you can do:
AUDIT YOUR FACEBOOK APPS
If you used Facebook to sign in to a third-party website, game or app, those services may continue to access your personal data. On Facebook, go to the settings page and click on the Apps tab to see which apps are connected to your account. From there, you can take a closer look at the permissions you granted to each app to see what information you are sharing. Remove any apps that you find suspicious or no longer use.
AUDIT YOUR FACEBOOK PRIVACY SETTINGS
If you are concerned about what details apps can see about you and your Facebook friends, now is a good time to check your privacy settings and minimise the information you share publicly. For example, you can make sure that only your friends can see your Facebook posts, or that only you can see your friends list.
READ PRIVACY POLICIES
INSTALL A TRACKER BLOCKER
There are add-ons that you can install in your browser that try to block trackers embedded on websites. But be aware that in some cases, they will make parts of websites work improperly. In our tests, Disconnect and Privacy Badger were useful tools for blocking trackers on Google’s Chrome browser.
Here’s a primer on how tracking works, to give you a sense of why blockers are important: When you engage with an app on Facebook, it may plant a tracker in your web browser, like a cookie, that collects information from you. Even when you close out of the app, the tracker can continue to follow your activities, like the other sites you visit or the people you interact with through status updates, according to Michael Priem, chief executive of Modern Impact, an advertising firm in Minneapolis.
INSTALL AN AD BLOCKER
Another way to block trackers is to prevent ads from loading altogether. Ad blockers are also add-ons that you can install for your browser on your mobile device or computer. Mobile ads are fully functioning programs, and they sometimes include malware that harvest some of your data. Even the largest websites do not have tight control over the ads that appear on their sites — and sometimes malicious code can appear inside their ad networks. A popular ad blocker among security researchers is uBlock Origin.
CLEAR YOUR BROWSING DATA…DUH!
Periodically, you can clear your cookies and browsing history. Apple, Google and Microsoft have published instructions on how to clear data for their browsers Safari, Chrome and Internet Explorer. That will temporarily delete cookies and trackers, though they will probably reappear over time.
BE WARY OF UNKNOWN BRANDS
Even if you read the privacy policies, you still may have to take them with a grain of salt. In the case of the thisisyourdigitallife app, the fine print said the information would be collected for academic use, not commercial purposes. So think twice before sharing information with unfamiliar companies or organisations.
That’s it! You will soon know if you are amongst the 87 million Facebook users whose data was misused (as Facebook will start declaring that on the affected user’s timelines). That doesn’t make you a celebrity. As rightly said, If you are not paying for the product, YOU are the product!
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