Facebook overhauls its privacy settings – how to protect your data

Facebook has overhauled the way you manage its privacy settings and data shared with third parties – and you can now even choose which ads you see.

The social network’s latest move to tighten privacy comes off the back of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which involved the misuse of users’ data, and ensures it complies with new European data protection rules (GDPR).

There are several layers to Facebook privacy, from what your friends see, what the public sees and what third parties see. These changes relate to what other companies can view about you (though we also deal with how to manage what mates can see later). If you’re someone who has logged in to public Wi-Fi, done a quick quiz through Facebook, or used it to log in to any other website, these are third parties and this blog is for you.

You'll likely have had a pop-up on screen, similar to below, asking you to make choices about privacy and how Facebook uses your data. All users will also have to agree to Facebook’s updated terms of service and data policy – if you decline, you won’t be able to use Facebook.

Many will have clicked to accept the options for speed without fully understanding what they were for, so we’re going to decode what it all means. As part of the changes it has revamped the area in which you find your privacy preferences, so we show you how to change your settings and revoke or limit any access third-party applications have to your data.

What does the pop-up ask you to accept?

  • Updated terms, data policy and cookie policy – This is how Facebook uses your data, from the information provided in your profile to the targeted ads you’ll see based on data from its partners. As above, it's a refresh of the terms and conditions you would’ve accepted when you signed up to Facebook.
  • Turn off/on face recognition – If you clicked through the pop-up and accepted, you've agreed to face recognition being turned on. According to Facebook, the technology will “help protect your privacy and improve your experiences, like detecting when others might be attempting to use your image as their profile picture”. However, in reality you could be tagged in all sorts of embarrassing photos and videos, even if you're not friends with the person who uploaded them. 

Is managing data a simpler process? And why is it so important to act?

Previously, these privacy controls were hidden within the settings, but there is now a new central hub which makes controlling your data privacy a simpler process. But due to the pop-up which many people sped through, it’s easy to have allowed access to your data and accepted face recognition – we take you through how you can amend this below.

It’s important because data collected by Facebook allows its advertising partners to ‘target’ ads to specific groups of people, which affects the ads you see on the platform. In addition, allowing third parties access to your data – including your photos, political views and phone number – means they could spam you with all sorts.

How to see the data advertisers are able to see about you – and revoke access

This is key as you can review the personal info companies could have access to, eg, relationship status, email address – so tighten up your security and avoid getting spammed. Here’s what to do:

On mobile – Settings & Privacy > Privacy Shortcut > scroll to Ads > Ad Preferences > Your Information > Here you are able to show or hide your personal data from advertisers.

On desktop – Settings > Ads > Your Information > Here you are able to show or hide your personal data from advertisers (see image below). 

How to turn off face recognition

Even if you’re only in the background of a photo or video on Facebook, at a gig for instance, it will potentially be able to recognise your face – even if you’re not a friend of the person who uploaded the image/video. This means Facebook would be able to build more of a profile on your preferences to share with advertising partners.

If you don’t want Facebook to automatically recognise your face, here’s what to do:

On mobile – Settings & Privacy > Privacy Shortcut > scroll to Privacy > Control Face Recognition > “Do you want Facebook to be able to recognise you in photos and videos?” > Yes or No

On desktop – Settings > Face Recognition > edit.

How to view and change ad preferences 

This is where you can view the types of ads you see and the frequency. Here’s what to do:

Settings & Privacy > Settings > scroll to Ads > Ad Preferences > Ad Settings > Here you’ll see three different types of ad setting: 
- ‘Ads based on data from partners’ 
- ‘Ads based on your activity on Facebook Company Products that you see elsewhere’
- ‘Ads that include your social actions’

The Hide Ad Topics button (on the Ad Preferences screen) has been made very accessible, allowing you to suggest topics you wouldn’t like to see ads on. If you’re looking to save money and avoid online shopping temptation, hide retailers you find yourself browsing (see image below).

How can I review what I share with friends and publically?

Here you’ll be able to review who sees what you post and your activity on Facebook, be that the public, friends, friends of friends etc.  

Desktop – Settings > Privacy > Your activity

Mobile – Settings & Privacy > Settings > Privacy Settings

Do take the time to run over your privacy settings and avoid oversharing your data.