Facebook Privacy for Authors: 5 Actions You Can Take
At this point, I’m sure you’ve heard the news.
Facebook is under attack from all sides for their massive boneheadedness in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, which you can read about here.
Yet, despite everything I’ve learned lately about Facebook’s questionable data / privacy practices. . .
Here’s the funny truth: I’m still using Facebook, and I’m going to bet you are too!
In fact, according to a recent survey, just 8% of internet users plan to stop using Facebook following the data scandal, while 45% plan to use it less than before. (So they say.)
So, since just about everyone is still using Facebook, I figured I might as well try to learn as much as I can to protect my data and the information I share on the platform.
Over the past few days, I’ve been doing just that, and I’m glad to share 5 actions authors can take to improve privacy on Facebook — without deleting your account.
I think some of these will definitely surprise you!
Action #1: Update Your App Settings
In case you haven’t been following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, here’s the crux of the issue:
A 3rd party app developer, via Cambridge Analytica, used an innocuous-seeming personality app to gather information willingly from over 50 million Facebook users, and then illegally harvested that data for political purposes and personal gain : (
With that as my background, I headed off in the direction of my App Settings. . . and let’s just say I was surprised with what I found.
From the point of view of my Facebook Group, you can access your App Settings page like so:
- Click the inverted white triangle in the top right corner
- Then, click Settings in the dropdown navigation bar
- At this point, you will find yourself on your General settings page
- Click the Apps button on the left navigation to access your App settings (image below)
Apparently, I have allowed 209 (!!!) different companies access to some amount of my Facebook data over the years. Over 200 companies which could have also (in theory) used my data for illicit purposes.
While Facebook has pledged to audit every app developer on the platform, I have some help for you in the meantime. I put together a quick video to show you…
- How to find which apps have access to your account data
- How to modify or remove their access
- How to request that they remove your personal data from their own servers
Bonus: Click here to access my free Facebook Privacy Toolkit for Authors, including a handy Facebook privacy checklist, resource links, email templates, and more.
You can watch the video here (and read an overview below):
Here’s the written version (with some added content):
When you give a 3rd-party app / website access to your Facebook account, usually for the purpose of logging in to that site more easily, you’re often providing more information than you might think.
On top of your name and email, you may also be providing:
- Friend list
- Profile picture
- Work history
A bit scary, right? Why does Fiverr need access to my Likes???
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to modify what these companies (apps) have access to…
Visit your Facebook App Settings
Here is the direct link: https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=applications
On this page, you’ll notice a few sections. I’m going to focus on these:
- Logged in with Facebook
- Apps, Websites and Plugins
- Apps Others Use
Let’s start with “Logged in with Facebook.”
(Click the image below to enlarge.)
Understanding “Logged in with Facebook”
This section is important because it shows you ALL of the third-party apps and websites you have given at least some access to your Facebook data.
As I found, the number (209, now 208) can be quite surprising!
This type of access-granting most often occurs when you log in or register for an account on a website using Facebook Login, but it can also happen when you sign up for a game or personality quiz or similar on Facebook.
If you want to modify what access third-parties have to your account, here’s what you would do:
- Hover over the app you want to modify and click the pencil to Edit Settings.
- Next, uncheck any information you don’t want to share with the app, like your Friend List or Birthday:
- When you’re done, click save!
Now, if you want to completely remove access to your Facebook account, you would do this instead:
- Find the App you want to delete, check the box next to it, and click the blue Remove button above it.
- On the next screen, check whether you’d like to delete any posts published by the App, and then click the blue Remove button to confirm deletion.
Pro Tip: As of April 2018, you can also check off multiple Apps at once to speed up removal.
- Find the App you want to delete, check the box next to it, and click the blue Remove button above it.
Contacting Facebook App Developers
At this point, there’s just one more hurdle to consider: the data that your 3rd-party apps may have already taken offline and collected on their own servers. (Argh!)
So, here’s what you can do: email those companies (apps) and ask them to delete. your. data!
(Feel free to listen to the Gladiator or Game of Thrones soundtrack while you do this.)
Pro Tip: This process can become time intensive, so if you’re going to do this, you may want to start with the companies you’re not too sure you recognize or otherwise trust to protect your privacy.
For a live example of this process and an email template for contacting the App company, make sure to watch my video above and click here to grab my free Facebook Privacy Toolkit for Authors.
Apps, Websites and Plugins
If you no longer want to share your Facebook data with ANY third parties after reading the news, that would be compeletely understandable (though not without consequences).
To get started, you would click Edit under “Apps, websites and plugins” and then the big blue button that says Disable Platform.
This will disconnect your account from Facebook’s “Platform”, effectively insulating your account from the world outside of Facebook. You can read the consequences of this on the image below:
(Click the image to enlarge.)
Apps Others Use
This is the last section I’m going to cover on the App Settings page for now.
Here you’ll find another interesting privacy option: when you click Edit, you’re brought to a screen where you can change the information your Facebook Friends bring about YOU to third-party apps they connect to their own Facebook profiles.
That’s right — you not only have to concern yourself with the privacy of the Apps you’re using, but potentially of the Apps your friends are using as well. Oy.
The positive takeaway here is that you can easily revise the information your Friends bring with them when they connect to new games or apps — by checking off boxes for the info you’re willing to share.
Alright, now that your App Settings have been handled, let’s move onto the next thing you can do to secure your privacy on Facebook! Hoozah!
Action #2: Review Your Facebook Ad Preferences
If you’re not already in a mild state of shock, this one might do the trick. First of all, this has nothing to do with running Facebook Ads for your books.
This is about the collection of data points you represent to Facebook’s massive advertising network.
Lo and behold, you can actually see and edit what the network knows about you!
(Honestly, even as a long time advertiser, I didn’t realize this was possible.)
Let me show you. . .
Visit your Facebook Ad Preferences
For convenience, here’s a direct link to your Ad Preferences page.
The page will look something like this:
For our purposes, I’m going to explore the frst four tabs you see on the page:
- Your interests
- Advertisers you’ve interacted with
- Your information
- Ad settings
This one is pretty straightforward.
Here you can navigate through the “Interests” under which you fall for Facebook Advertising purposes — generally, these are going to be the topics you have engaged with and Pages you have liked.
If you want to delete an “Interest” from the Facebook Ad knowledgebase about you, just hover over it, click the grey X button that appears, and refresh the page to see the difference.
And, voila! You can no longer be targeted for Facebook ads via that specific “Interest.”
Advertisers You’ve Interacted With
This section will look similar to the one above, but there’s a major difference.
The companies listed here are those whose ads you may expect to receive because you ALREADY signed up or made a purchase on their website, or otherwise engaged with them on Facebook.
When you remove a company listed here, you are preventing that company from advertising to you on Facebook in the future, rather than preventing someone else from advertising to you based on your interest in that same company.
For instance, if you had given your email to McDonalds via Facebook, and then deleted McDonalds from your settings here, McDonalds would no longer be able to send you ads, but someone else, like Wendy’s, could still potentially advertise you McDonalds products if you had a McDonalds “Interest” tag.
(I don’t know why Wendy’s would do this, but you can ask them.)
Side note: You can also find a list of companies here whose ads you’ve clicked, and a list of those unfortunate few you’ve decided to bar from your newsfeed forever.
The “Your information” area has two sections: “About you” and “Your categories.”
- About you: This section contains your profile fields like Relationship status, Employer, and Education, which can be individually toggled On / Off to determine whether that data can be used to target you for advertising purposes on Facebook.
- Your categories: These are advertising groups you fit into based on your Facebook activity, purchasing behavior, and other online activities. (This part can be a little crazy.) You can remove yourself from a category by hovering over it and clicking the X button that appears.
Update (3/30/18): Facebook will be shutting down Partner Categories.
The Ad Settings portal gives you access to some more powerful options. Here you can toggle whether you should receive the following types of ads:
- Ads based on your use of websites and apps: for instance, you might see ads on Facebook for cooking products if you visited the website of Williams Sonoma, or even ads from Williams Sonoma itself.
- Ads on apps and website off of Facebook: if enabled, you might see ads in apps or games off of the site via the Facebook Audience Network.
Facebook claims that keeping these options enabled ensures a better, more personalized advertising experience, but I’ll let you make that determination on your own. . .
View the images below to see how to toggle these options On or Off.
Action#3: Limit the Visibility of Your Facebook Profile
Depending on your personal situation and comfort level, you may wish to keep what you post on your personal Facebook page far away from readers — or even from certain friends.
If you want to limit who can see what you post or how to find you on Facebook, here are some options you should be aware of:
- Update Your Privacy Settings: Visit this link to review your personal privacy settings and modify who can see your posts or send you friend requests, among other things.
- Update Your Timeline and Tagging Settings: Visit this link to review who can post on your timeline, who can see what’s posted on your timeline, etc.
- View Your Profile As Someone: On the Timeline Settings page, click “View As” to open a nifty interface that allows you to view what individual users, as well as the public, see on your personal profile.
- Update Your Public Post Filters and Tools: By contrast, if you’re an author who lets readers “Follow” their personal profile and interact with posts there, you can click here to modify your Public Post settings, including who can follow you, comment on your public posts, and more.
- Extra Security: If you want to increase your account security, Facebook has a few additional options you might not be aware of, which you can configure here:
Action #4: Facebook Page & Group Settings
As an author, or someone who works with authors, chances are good you have a Facebook Page, and possibly a Group too.
Here are a few settings you can update to make your presence a bit more secure:
Facebook Page Settings
From a privacy perspective, I would start with your General settings, which you can find using this formula: https://www.facebook.com/YOUR-PAGE-ID/settings/
For example, my settings page is: https://www.facebook.com/RyanZeeMarketing/settings/
Here you’ll be able to change who can publish to your page, whether readers can message you, or even delete your Page altogether.
Page Roles is another useful section to review, which is where you’ll find who has administrative access to your Facebook page.
If you’re concerned that a former assistant or colleague might have unwarranted access to your data, you can edit or revoke their priveleges here.
Here is a simple formula to find your Page Roles tab:
Facebook Group Settings
If you run a Facebook Group, you have a few options for updating your group’s privacy.
First, here is a trick for quickly finding your FB Group’s settings page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/YOUR-GROUP-ID/edit/
You can also find it by clicking More on the Group’s navigation bar and then Edit Group Settings.
To improve your group’s privacy, you might want to review these settings:
- Privacy: Depending on the goals of your group, you may wish to make it “Closed” to prevent outsiders from seeing your content or “Secret” to prevent anyone from finding it at all.
- Membership Approval: If you start noticing members posting spam or the like, you may want to double-check that member approvals can only be conducted by you and other approved moderators.
- Membership Requests: To help ensure that members comply with your group’s rules, and generally avoid bad actors, I’d recommend creating 3 questions users need to answer to join your group.
For example, our closed group asks Facebook folk to provide a link or other info to confirm their role as an author or member of the publishing community.
Action #5: Discover these Tools
Okay, I promise, we’re almost done. But I can’t conclude without sharing some nifty tools I found that can help create a safer and possibly more enjoyable FB experience.
Let’s go over a few of these now:
- Social Book Post Manager: This is a free Google Chrome extension that lets you batch delete or hide posts from your Facebook timeline, based on the month, year, and more. Click here for details.
- Freedom: If you’re not ready to remove Facebook from your life yet, but want to improve your productivity and simply THINK about the site less, learn how you can use this tool to block distracting sites on both your phone and computer… without deleting them.
- Social Network Adblocker: Also free, this Google Chrome extension is a little bit crazy — it allows you to completely disable Ads on your Facebook Newsfeed! I’ve used it myself, and it’s a bit nutty.
(Personally, I don’t mind seeing Facebook Ads, but if you want to avoid being reached by advertisers altogether, you can see an example of how this works below.)
That’s All, Folks!
Okay, we’ve covered quite a bit, but you might still have some questions. That’s why I put together some extra materials for you to review.
Click here to access my free Facebook Privacy Toolkit for Authors, which includes a handy Facebook privacy checklist, resource links, email templates, and more.
I’ve also provided answers to some common questions about Facebook privacy for you below, and please do leave your thoughts on the issue in the comments. I look forward to reading your responses!
Frequently Asked Questions: Facebook Privacy for Authors
How can I report abuse on Facebook?
“The best way to report abusive content or spam on Facebook is by using the Report link that appears near the content itself. If you have any ideas for how we can improve a product or feature on Facebook, you can submit feedback. To report a business you purchased something from on Facebook, you can fill out this form.”
Can I download and see what I've already shared on Facebook?
Yes, you can! Navigate over to your Settings page and click Download a copy of your Facebook data.
How can I deactivate or permanently delete my Facebook account?
If you’ve decided you need a break from Facebook, you can temporarily deactivate your account by clicking here and then tapping Manage My Account. If you’re ready to end your relationship with Facebook, you can also delete your account: click here to start the process.
*** Warning: Please give it some serious thought before proceeding with either option ***
What are the pros / cons of deactivating or deleting my Facebook account?
A brief review:
Pros: Less time worrying about Apps scraping your personal data, fewer distractions on an hour-by-hour basis, more time spent on daily tasks, etc.
Cons: You won’t be able to run ads for your book business or interact with readers on Pages and Groups, and you may have more trouble overall networking and staying in touch with friends, etc.
What are you planning to do about your Facebook Privacy?