So how about that Facebook thing, huh? How can you protect yourself?
There are a couple of things you can do to prevent, or at least hamper, the next Cambridge Analytica. (Of course, the next 10 or 13 Cambridge Analyticas have already struck and already have your stuff, but you know what I mean.)
Before I give you specific instructions, let’s go over a few points.
Stop Calling It a “Breach”
When this story broke Sunday (even though it’s really old news, but I digress) new readers repeatedly called it a “data breach,” while techie folks and most of the techie press kept correcting them. This is because it’s not a fine point.
Facebook didn’t suspend CA and its parent company for “stealing” data. They suspended them for misusing it. For lying about why they wanted it. They’re not upset with them taking the data. They’re upset with lying about why they took it.
It’s Gonna Happen Again, And No One Cares
If Zuckerberg and Sandberg ever come out of hiding, they’ll make promises. Empty promises. Senators and Congresspeople will make bold statements. Dianne Feinstein, one of Silicon Valley’s Senators, will demonstrate her inability to grasp the fundamentals of well, our Universe, and nothing will change.
Collecting and selling this data is Facebook’s business, and another story that’s been drowned out, for the most part, makes this crystal clear. Facebook’s Chief information security officer is quitting over a disagreement over how Facebook handles these issues, and his department, which has already been cut from 120 people to 3, is being eliminated.
He has been overseeing the transfer of his security team to Facebook’s product and infrastructure divisions. (emphasis added) His group, which once had 120 people, now has three, the current and former employees said.
Taking a department, breaking it up, and distributing its responsibilities across the departments it used to oversee means its less important, not more. Anything Facebook promises about dealing with misuse of information or use of misinformation is bullshit.
All of the mechanisms used by CA were permitted by Facebook’s system. Many of them have since been disabled; only after Facebook was pressured by users and the government.
If a Product Is Free…You Know The Deal
You are the product on Facebook, Twitter, Google, and everything else free on the Internet. The philanthropists have left the building.
Google at least gives you tools to run a business and find damn near anything on the ‘net. It doesn’t make them any less evil (I mean, they even scrapped the “Don’t Be Evil” sham a while back) and I don’t even use them as my default search engine anymore, but the transaction is clear. “Use us to process information, and we’ll collect it.”
What does Facebook give you? A way to communicate trivial things. Poorly.
If you have something to sell, it is pretty useful. Of course, you have to pay for that part.
So What Can I Do?
Short of no longer using FB, which I am not even doing myself yet, do this:
- Go to Settings.
- Go to privacy and make it look like this. (Click to embiggen.)
- Only friends can see your posts.
- Stuff you are tagged in has to be reviewed by you. (Facebook will let you know.)
- Only you can see your friends list. (This is important.)
- Only friends can use your email address and your phone number to find you.
- Your Facebook profile is not visible outside of Facebook.
- Go to Apps.
- Click on “App Others Use” and get very angry at Facebook. This where you can control what your friends share about you with other apps. Check out those default settings. Then make it look like mine.
- Extra Credit: disable Apps, Websites, and Plugins. If you want to be totally locked down, disable this feature. You may find it makes it impossible for you to use your Facebook profile to log into other websites. You shouldn’t do that. Your call.
That’s about all you can do, short of giving up on social media altogether. I’m close myself, but not there yet.
Stayed tuned. This blog is alive again.