The company is not just a social network. It's also athat scans you on the Internet and in real life for information that helps you customize the ads it provides you. Facebook can track the sites you visit while planning your trip. Here, customer information can be collected shared by partners, including the shop where you bought your sunscreen. And Facebook has similar information about all the friends who went on the trip, and it knows you were all together because it has your location data.
Taken together, this is more revealing than any swimsuit photo.
Facebook keeps following you so often that sometimes it looks like the company is overhearing your conversations. In fact, many people believe that the social network listens to them through their phone's microphone. Facebook has denied this, but that has not stopped the ongoing conspiracy theory. CNET conducted an informal test and found no evidence that.
Technical experts and privacy officers agree. But that should not comfort you, they say, because gathering information on Facebook is far more effective than spying on conversations could ever be.
"The funny – well, pervertly funny – is that the truth is far more frightening than the myth," said Serge Egelman, a privacy researcher at the International Computer Science Institute.
You can not stop Facebook from collecting data about you even if you disable or completely delete your account. (However, deleting your account results in a significant reduction in data collection.) You can limit access to the social network at most. Here are some tips on keeping Facebook's mittens away from your information.
Step 1: Sign In, Click, Disable
First, limit the information that Facebook uses to determine which ads it shows you.
You want to go into your settings and then select "Show" in the horizontal bar on the left. Next, navigate to the "Your Ad Settings" section and click "Ad Settings."
Under "Ad based on partner data," you can decide whether to opt out of ads based on data from companies that are affiliates of Facebook. For example, Facebook says that if you allow the use of this data, "You may see ads for hotel deals when you visit travel sites."
The next section is "Ads Based on Your Activity on Facebook Corporate Products You Can See Elsewhere." Here you can choose whether Facebook uses certain information about you to customize ads that you see on other websites. Yes, Facebook shows you ads on pages outside of Facebook. Think of ads you see, for example, when you read an article from your local newspaper or go shopping on a store website.
The catch: Even if you decide against everything, Facebook will adjust ads based on gender, age, location and taste of people similar to you.
Step 2: Cutting Third-Party Apps
Last year, a whistleblower announced that British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had abused the data collected by Facebook. The scandal has shown how much data Facebook transfers to third party companies and organizations.
Since the scandal, Facebook has changed the options for using your data through third-party apps. It's a good idea to review your settings again if you have not done so lately.
On the Settings page, in the left bar, select Apps and Sites. At the top of the page, you'll see a list of all the apps or sites that you signed in to with your Facebook account. Here you can remove certain third-party apps or limit the information they can request.
Underneath is a section where you can pull out the big guns and cut off access to your Facebook account from third-party apps. Under "Settings," find the "Apps, websites, and games" section. Select "Edit" to disable access to your account.
The catch: If you completely disable the connection of your Facebook account with third-party apps, you will not be able to sign in to these apps with your Facebook account or use the "Like" feature of Facebook. and "commenting" features on third-party websites.
Step 3: Use External Locking Tools.
You do not have to rely on Facebook settings to block your information.that can take your privacy to the next level.
Safari automatically blocks the use of two types of web trackers on websites by Facebook and other third parties: third-party cookies and browser fingerprints. Controlling these trackers is important if you want to limit Facebook's ability to watch you.
Third-party cookies allow Facebook to track your activity on websites that use the Like, Share, and Comment features. (If you want to use these features, you can enable them after the first query in Safari.) With the browser's fingerprint, Facebook records your activity continuously, even if you delete your cookies.
Similarly, Firefox offers an extension called Facebook Container that separates your Facebook account from your activity on third-party websites. This means that Facebook will not be aware of your activity on other websites unless you use the Facebook Share button.
The catch: Some of these features restrict the use of Facebook tools to sites outside the social network. For example, Facebook Container disables the Facebook Like & Comment features on third-party websites, and you can not sign in to other services with your Facebook account.
Step 4: Keep your location secret.
You can control how much Facebook knows about the people around you, whether they are friends, colleagues, or strangers on the subway. First, you need to stop accessing the location tracking service on your phone. That is not enough. Your IP address will pass your location to the websites you visit and the apps you use. So hide it with a VPN.
A VPN is a service that tunnels your Internet connection to another location before you connect to a site or app. In other words, you could be on a beach in Florida, but the VPN could make Facebook think you were elsewhere – in London, for example – based on the IP address it sees.
Be careful. You do not want to pick any VPN. Make sure you select one that has been reviewed by privacy professionals.
The catch: You probably need to sign up for Facebook more often and check your identity if the social network believes you're constantly using a new IP address. It can be difficult to use a VPN throughout, so you probably can not always hide your location. After all, the ads you see are directed to people outside your location. That's the point, is not it?
Step 5: There's more and more
You can also avoid installing the Facebook app on your phone so Facebook does not add your contacts to the information it already has about you. If you continue on this path, you only have to take a few steps to delete your Facebook account.
And we have not even looked at the impact of using other Facebook services like Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. You might also consider stopping them.
This does not prevent other technology giantsand lesser-known ad networks from collecting similar information about you while surfing the Internet. Facebook is just the most visible advertising network, said David Choffnes, a computer science professor at Northeastern University who works on apps and privacy.
"We do not know how widespread the companies that track our information online are," Choffnes said, "and how they share our information."