I read a concerning article in Social Media Today about the personal information Facebook captures on its users. 

They’re sharing way more information than I suspected, but it makes sense given that when you go shopping in person and suddenly an advertisement for that same product appears in your Facebook feed. That’s due to geotracking and it very much concerns me that Facebook is tracking so much of what I’m doing and viewing online off the app.

I call this the dark side of social media and how your free Facebook account actually comes with a steep price – the invasion of your privacy. 

This week the social media giant outlined its evolving efforts to provide users with more control over how their personal data is accessed, and how they can maintain awareness and control over such to avoid potential misuse. But it’s very hard to remove your data or limit what they can share about you with advertisers.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook has updated its Privacy Check-Up tool, which it first announced earlier this month.

According to Social Media Today, “The new version of Privacy Check-Up has been split into four distinct sections “and uses clarified language around each aspect, making them easier to understand and action. Facebook says that over the next few weeks, “nearly 2 billion people around the world” will receive a prompt in their News Feed encouraging them to review their privacy settings.

Facebook said, “The prompt will show up in your News Feed and direct you to the Privacy Checkup tool. This makes it even easier to adjust who can see your posts and profile information, strengthen your account security by turning on login alerts, and review the information you share with apps you’ve logged in to with Facebook.”

Social Media Today notes that “Facebook says that its Off-Facebook Activity tool, which displays third-party data providers and groups that have shared your info with Facebook, and was first announced last August, is now available to all Facebook users around the world.

The Off-Platform Activity tool enables you to see how you’re being targeted with ads, based on lists, data-broker files, subsidiary sharing, etc. The tool gives users significantly more control over how their data is used (or not) for ad targeting, which could help provide people with more assurance as to which personal interests and traits of theirs are being targeted through Facebook ads.

And lastly, Facebook outlines its new Login Notifications tool, which it officially launched earlier this month.

Login alerts aim to keep users aware of the access they’re granting to third-party apps when they use a Facebook login. This is an important element, as many apps gather personal data via Facebook Pixel as soon as you open them. In fact, many apps do this even if you don’t use Facebook to log into them, but this tool provides an extra level of transparency over the process, and gives users more options as to whether they want to allow such access.”

Improving data privacy is a difficult task for Facebook. While the social media giant can update its systems and provide more transparency helping its users better understand who can access their information, and how it can potentially be used, these privacy tools are dependent on users actually taking action on them, and data shows that many people simply don’t bother to do so.

I found this statement by Social Media Today fascinating, “Despite all the press coverage, all the concerns, despite all the reports that Facebook was potentially allowing its users to be manipulated through complex ad targeting, only half of them felt compelled to even check their privacy settings.”

The key takeaway? Check your privacy settings and restrict access to what data is being shared with third parties.