Remember the early years when having a Facebook account was considered really important because all your friends were on it and creating a community was considered essential to fit in. Well, let’s just say that feeling is no longer mutual considering the recent news of Facebook reading private messages between users and its partnership with Cambridge Analytica.

Facebook’s Private Message Scandal

Facebook had officially confirmed a few weeks back that it reads private messages sent between users. They use automated tools to view and analyze users’ profiles in order to make sure that they do not consist of any malware or explicit images.

This is not new practice for the social media company as it has constantly reiterated in the past it will maintain this practice in order to ensure safe social media use. However, users thought that those practices only applied to pictures and other information shared by viewers from their own personal profile, not messages they can send to their friends on the messenger app.

Facebook in a written statement said in defense that, though ensuring and maintaining the privacy of its users is a priority, these practices are no different from what other social media companies are doing.

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Poor Timing: The Cambridge Analytica Scandal

As reported by The New York Times, the Observer of London, and The Guardian in March of 2018, after they received confidential documents from Cambridge Analytica. After carefully going through and analyzing the documents given, they found that Trump’s party used skewed means of obtaining user data from Facebook, during the presidential election.

This practice went as far back as 2014 when Cambridge Analytica contractors and employees obtained tens of millions of user data from Facebook, even getting Canadian and European citizens to help them, despite warnings from the company’s lawyers that they would be breaking US election laws.

Cambridge Analytica and the British affiliate group the SCL Group were also in discussion with Lukoil regarding how Cambridge was able to use Facebook and narrow down its user profile using Facebook. This gives weight to the theory of Russia helping Trump win the presidential election.

When the leak was out, lawmakers were upset and demanded Mark Zuckerberg stand before Congress to explain himself.

What to be aware of and do when Facebook analyzes your digital activity?

The two cases above serve as warning signs of how to navigate social media sites like Facebook, without compromising yourself. It also raises questions of consent and privacy and how social media companies can better navigate and communicate information better with its users so that situations similar to the ones mentioned don’t escalate further.

How to better protect yourself when using social media like Facebook?

If you still find yourself feeling comprised in spite of taking the steps mentioned above, then the following should ensure you are safely protected when accessing the site and other various social media platforms.

  1. Be picky about what personal information you provide about yourself- This includes avoiding those viral images that ask users to comment answers to questions like “What was the name of your first pet?” or “What was your favorite teacher’s name?” which can be used to hack your other accounts.
  2. Explore your privacy settings- Most social media platforms always provide a variety of options on how to better protect and limit the information you provide. Try to learn as much as you can about them so that you always have numerous options in case something doesn’t work.
  3. Make sure you personally know all of your Facebook friends – It might seem harmless to befriend an old high school associate or a mutual friend of yours, but there’s something to be said for keeping your social circle small- even online. Watch out for copycat profiles that impersonate people you know.
  4. Make it a habit to constantly log-on and log-off when you use social media- Don’t let your browser save your information, especially if you’re not the only one using the device.
  5. Read the terms and agreements- If you are concerned about your private information being misused, then it is really important to read through all the terms and agreements listed before clicking ‘agree’.
  6. Delete the Messenger app. If you’re not comfortable with Facebook bots monitoring your communications, get rid of it! But, remember that alternatives like WhatsApp or Skype may have similar measures.

Let the controversy surrounding Facebook be a sign for you to be extremely cautious about every move you decide to make using social media.

 

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