According to reports by the New York Times and the Observer, a research firm called Cambridge Analytica collected millions of Facebook users’ personal information without their consent — and people are mad. Many don’t trust Facebook with their data anymore, and they’re threatening to delete their accounts.
But Facebook and its network of apps, including Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, are important communication lines for a lot of people, so deleting your account might not be a realistic option. You can, however, dial back your use and reduce the amount of information you give the site. Here’s how.
Break your habit and limit your use of the platform.
Just by signing up for the service, you’ve agreed to let Facebook track your activity and constantly collect data about you. By reducing the time you spend on the site, interaction with posts, and content you upload, you are also reducing the amount of data Facebook is gathering from you. And remember, this data collection applies to Facebook — and everywhere you’ve signed in with Facebook, including Facebook-owned Instagram and WhatsApp, as well as, to a lesser extent, third-party websites like Spotify.
Log out of Facebook before browsing the web.
Any page that has a Facebook Like button installed most likely uses a Facebook pixel. Even pages that don't have a Like button can have a pixel. This means it's possible that Facebook knows most of your web browsing history.
You can prevent this tracking by logging out of Facebook and using Facebook only in “incognito” or “private” browsing mode in your web browser. Once you've logged out, be sure to clear your cookies. In Chrome, select Chrome from menu bar > Clear browsing data > Time range: All time (Note: This will sign you out of most websites).
Review what permissions you’ve granted Facebook and third-party apps.
Look at your Facebook third-party app settings and consider revoking access from all apps, or any apps that ask for egregious amounts of information. Pay special attention to the “Apps Others Use” module and deselect all of the information listed to prevent Facebook friends from bringing your information with them when they connect their accounts to third-party apps.
Then, look at what kind of access Facebook has on your phone. On iOS, go to Settings > Facebook and set Location to “Never.” Next, go to the Facebook app, tap the menu button (bottom right for iOS and top right for Android) > Settings > General > Upload contacts and slide to disable it.
Better yet, delete the mobile app on your phone.
This will help you cut down on notifications and prevent Facebook’s ability to track your location. It will also force you to log in (using your mobile web browser) only when you really need to access your account. This little bit of friction will make you more intentional about using Facebook, instead of just casually scrolling out of habit.
There are a number of ways you can make breaking your feed-scrolling habit easy on yourself.
On desktop, use Nanny, a Chrome extension that limits the time you spend on Facebook and other apps the company owns, like Instagram.
The extension lets you block certain URLs at certain times of day or limits the number of minutes on that URL. You can also use the News Feed Eradicator so you’re not tempted to interact with any posts.
If you must have the mobile app installed, turn off notifications.
Your phone’s Do Not Disturb mode is the easiest way to quiet incoming sounds and vibrations. To enable the feature on iOS, swipe from the top to open Control Center and tap the moon icon, and on Android, swipe from the top to open the Settings shade and tap the icon that looks like a do not enter sign.
If you get notifications on your Mac, from the menu bar, tap on the Notification Center icon (top right), then scroll up to reveal and select the Do Not Disturb setting.
Make the app less appealing by making your phone’s screen gray.
The idea comes from “tech ethicist” Tristan Harris, who says that if your phone is less colorful, you can be less inclined to look at it. Stripping away colors may also take away colors’ ability to subconsciously influence your decisions.
On iOS, go Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters > enable Color Filters and select Grayscale. On Android, go to Settings > About phone > tap Build number seven times (yes, seven!) to turn on Developer Options. Then, go back to the Settings page > Developer Options > Simulate color space > select Monochromacy.
Ultimately, if a social media network isn’t providing any value to your life, you don’t need to use it.
Yes, Facebook already has a lot of information about you, but the best way to prevent it from taking your data is to quit using the platform entirely. Again, this isn’t a feasible option for everyone, but it is a valid option. You can download all of your Facebook data — including posts, photos, videos, messages, chats, and your About section — by going to Settings and in General, clicking Download a copy of your Facebook data.
If you want to remove yourself from Facebook but aren’t sure if you want to fully delete your account, deactivate it. On the same General settings page, select Manage your account and then click Deactivate your account.
If you want to permanently delete your account, with no option for recovery, go to this page.
Here’s more information on what personal information you’re giving to Facebook and how.
Nicole Nguyen covers products and personal technology for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
Contact Nicole Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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