Tips to Control Your Facebook Data

In light of the latest Facebook data scandal, here are a few tips on what actions you can take to control your Facebook data. First, let me say that I’m not one of those who is crying foul. I’ve always known that the quid pro quo for using Facebook was providing my data to the site, and to some extent, I’ve known the pernicious effects of having my data sold to 3rd-party companies and advertisers. It is what it is. Also, Facebook is not alone. They are just the latest of these companies that have dropped the ball in managing our data (e.g. Equifax).

Lastly, please note the following are my settings and recommendations based on my experiences and knowledge of Facebook. You may have your own opinion and recommendations based on your experiences. 

All of these settings listed below can be accessed via mobile or desktop. On a desktop, click the down triangle on the upper right side of Facebook. From the drop-down menu that appears, click Settings. 

Under the General Tab, at the very bottom, click the link that says Download a copy of your Facebook data. You may be surprised how much Facebook knows about you. You’ll be asked to verify your account a couple of times before getting the download link.

To do the rest of these important first actions:

  • Set security and login settings
  • Adjust privacy settings
  • Review and adjust timeline and tagging

I suggest you watch this video:

Facial Recognition
Facebook’s use of facial recognition certainly isn’t new. Up until now, the only way you could control it was by limiting who could tag you in a post. Over the last few weeks, however, you may have received a pop up on your profile from Facebook, under the heading of safety, asking if it is OK to facially recognize you. Basically, you have the option to opt-out of facial recognition.This Yes/No question is the result of ongoing litigation.

Review notification, mobile, and public posts tabs

There’s nothing really significant in this section. The settings for notifications only control what kind and how often. Mobile is the telephone number connected to your account, and public posts are related to who can see your posts (Friends or Public).

Apps section
Review what apps are connected to your Facebook profile. If there are apps listed there that you no longer use, then delete them by clicking the X. If there are apps that you need, then review what data Facebook and the app are capturing by clicking the pencil icon. On the window that appears, uncheck the data you don’t want shared. Please note that when you do this, some of these apps may not work properly.

Apps Websites and plugins
If you are not using any of the variety of apps or websites listed in the Apps section to connect to Facebook, then you may want to disable this section.

Game App Notifications

Turn off.

Apps Others Use
Note: As of April 4th, 2018, this section was removed from Facebook
Reading this section really disturbed me. From Facebook:

People on Facebook who can see your info can bring it with them when they use apps. This makes their experience better and more social. Use the settings below to control the categories of information that people can bring with them when they use apps, games and websites.

If I’m understanding this correctly, people who can see your info are people whom you‘ve allowed access to your Facebook data. They are namely your friends. So your friends can bring your info with them when they use apps. In a nutshell, if my friend John Smith uses a Facebook app, such as one of those silly quizzes or personality tests that you have to opt-in to use, and the app asks for John’s data, when John says yes, that app will also gain my Facebook data that I’ve checked off in this section. I’ve unchecked everything, as I don’t want my info, even my website, being collected by these types of apps.


This is your advertising preferences.

Here you can review what Facebook knows about you, namely your interests; business and industry; and hobbies and activities. Go through this entire Interests section (there are several tabs) and hover and click the X if you don’t want to be associated with these interests. I suggest you revisit this often, as this section is opt-out only, meaning that based on your behavior on Facebook, interests will appear here.

Facebook Ad Interests

Advertisers You’ve Interacted With
Pay particular attention to Advertisers that have your Contact info. I bet that you’ll realize you’ve never heard of many of these companies nor have you opted in to be on their customer lists. At least that was the case for me. Review and remove as you see fit. Just like in the Interests section, revisit this section often, as you’ll see a buildup of companies that have your data. Unfortunately, removing them from here doesn’t remove your data from their lists.

Facebook advertisers you've interacted with

Your Information

About You
Review what information you are giving to advertisers. For me, I have everything here set to Off, but as Facebook says, “These settings only affect how we determine whether to show certain ads to you. They don’t change which information is visible on your profile or who can see it. We may still add you to categories related to these fields (see your categories above).”

Your Categories
Since I removed everythingInterests, Advertisers, etc.there is nothing under my Categories, but I’m sure you’ll find a few that may surprise you. Review these categories and remove those that don’t relate to you, interest you, or you don’t want advertised to you.

Ad Settings

Ads Based on Your Use of Websites and Apps
Recommendation – Turn off. This is also known as Interest-Based Advertising. For example, if I visit a website that sells yachts, I’ll start to see yachtsale ads on Facebook. Now, Facebook says that if you turn this off, it won’t stop ads being seen, it will stop the ads being relevant to what they track about you on the web. I’m OK with that. If you’re not, don’t opt-out. Also in this section, Facebook gives a link to the Digital Advertising Alliance that will supply you with (after a lengthy check) all the companies that have your data. In most instances, these companies are using cookies to grab your data and then using this information to find you on Facebook and start advertising to you. I opted out of dozens of companies years ago, and I did it again to today. This won’t stop the interest-based ads, but it will keep them at bay for a while.

Ads on apps and websites off of the Facebook Companies
Can your Facebook ad preferences be used to show you ads on devices such as computers, mobile devices, and connected TVs? Recommendation – Turn Off. Again, this is relevancy or interest-based advertising option. It won’t stop the ads, they just won’t be relevant to you, which means to me, Facebook won’t be using my data to find ads. 
Ads with your social actions
Who can see your social actions paired with ads? Recommendation – Turn off.  When I like a page, and that page runs an ad, what my friends see in their News Feeds and elsewhere is “Larry likes this page” above the ad, which to me seems like I’m endorsing whatever the ad is selling. 
Hide Ad Topics
The topics are Alcohol, Pets, and Parenting. Just an aside here, what a weird combo of things. I’ve turned this off. Again, that won’t stop the ads from coming, you just won’t see ads related to these topics.
Final Thoughts
Facebook can track and grab your data via the web using cookies and a tracking code called the Pixel that websites add to advertise to you. It doesn’t matter if you are a registered user or not or whether you‘ve logged in to Facebook or not. You can’t stop them tracking you unless you go out of your way to use private browsing or an entirely private browser like Brave. You won’t stop ads on Facebook, but you can restrict some of the data advertisers use and collect. I highly recommend reviewing the Facebook data policy. Assume nothing.
One Final Tip
Review your activity log. You can access your log a couple of ways. The easiest way is from your Facebook profile, up near the upper right, next to edit your profile, click View Activity log. 

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