Because of the news that the Donald Trump campaign’s data-management firm used Facebook to acquire personal information from millions of Americans, people are taking a long look at their social media settings. But while online security is important for everyone, internet privacy is even more important for black people.
Part of the reason the FBI monitored Christopher Daniels, who may become the first person prosecuted as a “black identity extremist,” was that agents saw an online video of him at a police brutality march. Police departments in Boston, New York City and other places all over America have admitted to using proprietary software to monitor the Facebook and Twitter accounts of black activists.
You might think you’re being careful on social media by limiting what you post, but that alone isn’t enough. Here are 10 specific things you should do if you don’t want random strangers rummaging through your online underwear drawer.
1. Stop playing games.
If you’ve ever wondered why companies develop online games like “Candy Crush” and “FarmVille” and offer them for free, it’s not because they care about entertaining you during the weekly personnel meeting (I know ... Sheila could’ve sent an email about this instead of gathering everyone in the conference room).
When you play the fun games and quizzes on Facebook, you’re actually paying for them ... with your personal information. Even if your info isn’t public, when you take a quiz to see which character from Sex and the City you’d be, you grant the developer access to your data (plus, I can already tell you’re a Miranda—trust me).
That’s exactly how Cambridge Analytica helped Trump get elected, according to the New York Times. The company used a personality quiz to access the Facebook data of 50 million Americans, including political affiliations, relationship status, education and even where they lived.
2. Check your third-party Facebook apps.
I can almost guarantee that you’re sharing more info than you are aware of. Most apps come with the agreement to share data. If you’re reading this article from a desktop, click here to check your App Settings page. Hover over each app with the cursor and you should see the option to delete the app (an X) or edit the app’s permission settings (a pencil).
If you’re using your mobile phone or an iPad, it takes much longer, but here’s how you do it:
- On mobile, click on the three horizontal lines on the main page of your Facebook app (on iOS, it’s in the lower right corner; on the Android app, it’s at the top right).
- You should reach a page with your name and profile at the top. Scroll down to find the section marked “SETTINGS” in all caps. Click on it.
- You should see a second option that says “settings.” Click on that, then click on the option that says “account settings.”
- Scroll down to the option for “apps.” Click there.
- The first option you see after clicking “Apps” should read “Logged in with Facebook.” Click on that.
- Finally, you should see an item marked “Logged in to Facebook.” These are all the apps that your Facebook profile has granted access to. You’ll have to scroll down and click on “remove app” for each individual one.
3. Do it yourself.
Many third-party apps are unnecessary. For instance, you have probably granted your YouTube account access to your Facebook profile simply by clicking “Post to Facebook” from your YouTube page.
It might not be quicker, but simply copying the link and pasting it on Facebook does the same thing without connecting your Facebook account to your Google account (they own YouTube).
4. Never “Log in with Facebook.”
When registering for any kind of online account (Amazon, WordPress, JeansThatMakeMyBootyLookPlump.com, etc.) it is better to use your email address than using the quick method of registering with your Facebook or Twitter account and having your shopping and online activity tracked.
5. Don’t shop on social media.
At their core, most social media services make most of their money through advertising. Because of this, your online data is their biggest commodity. That’s how they are able to target you with ads specifically related to things you might be interested in (like jeans that make your booty look plump).
6. Use a VPN.
Everyone should use a VPN. Facebook and Google might be the most notorious collectors of personal information, but in 2017, the Trump administration passed a law allowing your internet service providers to sell information. This means that every website you visit, every movie you watch and every app you use is now the property of your internet service and can be sold to advertisers, private companies and anyone else.
Also, you should use incognito/privacy mode. Every browser has one. Contrary to popular belief, incognito mode does not keep your data private. It simply hides the activity on the specific device you’re using. But as a rule of thumb, it does make browsing fractionally safer.
7. Turn off Facebook location settings.
Use your device settings to turn off location services unless you really need them. Not only can some third-party apps use your location, but so can Facebook—even if you don’t share it publicly.
8. Don’t friend Sheila.
Third-party apps can use your information, but Facebook also collects metadata from your friends’ likes, shopping habits, etc.—even if you don’t get down with Sheila like that.
The metadata from your friends can be used to determine your political affiliation, your location and even hobbies. For instance, if you attend Sheila’s cookout and most of her friends are Trump supporters, when she tags you in a pic, I can assume you like shitty potato salad.
The FBI has questioned the associates and relatives of people simply based on Facebook statuses from their friends. You can set your privacy settings to receive a notification every time you are tagged or mentioned.
9. Stop liking shit.
Facebook’s algorithms can determine your political affiliations and other information about you just from the things you “like.” The FBI questioned Johnathan Thrower and his mother in 2016 simply because Christopher Daniels, the alleged “black identity extremist,” liked a post on Thrower’s Facebook page that, according to the FBI, contained “anti-police rhetoric.”
For instance, if you have ever liked more than one article by a writer named Michael Harriot, you’re definitely a reverse racist.
10. Understand that there’s no such thing as privacy.
You should come to grips with the fact that taking every measure to protect your online data might not be enough. Simply logging on to social media means you are relinquishing some of your rights to privacy. If you use the internet, you’re sharing your data.
Mark Zuckerberg has no interest in helping you keep up with your high school classmates. He is a billionaire because Facebook is one of the biggest data mining operations that ever existed. He makes money by sharing this information with advertisers. He already knows if you like ketchup on your hot dog (if you do, grow up), who you voted for and how plump your booty is.
Sheila will tell you at the next meeting.