How To Protect Your Personal Data on Facebook

‘Profiteering’ — sounds like a cross between ‘racketeering’ and ‘piracy’.

That’s what some are calling the latest scandal that has Facebook’s 87 million user data breach and political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica right at the eye of the storm. A storm that is being investigated by just about every able and willing body, from the United States to the United Kingdom and Australia.

While we leave The Grownups to take care of things like legally charging Cambridge Analytica and conducting Senate hearings, what can you and I — regular, everyday users of Facebook — do to protect our data, other than boycotting and leaving the platform entirely?

Use this guide and its six steps to ensure that the only individual controlling your personal data is you.

1. Audit yourself

The first thing you should do (and be prepared to go down the rabbit hole with this part) is get a sense of just how much data you’ve been sharing over the years. To do this, you’ll want to download a copy of all your Facebook data and activity.

Doing this first will also allow you to decide, later on, what access you want to give and where you’d like to revoke or limit app access, which items need to be secured or completely deleted.

Setting your profile to “Private”, by the way, does not protect you. It simply means others not in your network cannot see your profile. But your data is still up for grabs.

So head to “Settings” and choose the “Download” option. Information takes some time to compress and will come to you in a couple of folders. You’ll also want to look for a file called ‘facedata.htm’, which is a facial recognition information file.

2. Privacy Changes

The first measure of defence at this point is to address your privacy settings.

Head to ‘Settings’ > ‘Privacy’ to tighten up who can see your posts, who can locate you using what pieces of information, who is allowed to send you friend requests and whether external search engines can link to your profile.


You can also limit the scope or reach of your past posts behind a particular wall.

Next, head to ‘Timeline and tagging’ to gain even more granular control over things like who can post on your timeline, who can view these posts, tag options and whether you’ll want to exercise a review process before allowing posts mentioning or involving you to be posted.

You can also block specific pages, users, apps and event invitations.

And, finally, head to the ‘Public posts’ section and decide who you’d like to be able to view your ‘public posts’ on the News Feed, down to specific and individual users — even ones who are not already your friends.

3. The applications tab

The ‘Apps and Websites’ tab is where you’ll be able to check out current apps, apps you’ve used but that have expired and apps you’ve actively removed.

If there are apps listed that are ‘Active’, you’ll be given the choice to manually click on and review each piece of information you share with this app. You then have the choice to rescind some information while keeping other pieces or remove all permissions.

4. Check the expired tab

Your work isn’t done yet. You’ve addressed your current apps and revoked access where you wanted. But what about apps you’ve used in the past? These are classed as ‘expired’ but your data still sits there.

Time to change that.

Under ‘Apps and Websites’, head to the ‘Expired’ tab and check off each app individually. Facebook’s API will once again pop up with a confirmation for removal.

5. Using the editor

Maybe you’ve lost all faith in Facebook and you want to go all ‘scorched earth’. At the same time, you don’t want to miss out on your cute niece who just learned to walk and whose parents are (thankfully!) major over-sharers of her cute adventures.

What’s a person to do?

Naturally, you place as wide a blanket moratorium on app sharing and access as you can. Scroll down and head to ‘Apps, Websites and Games’.

Next, hit the ‘Edit’ button and confirm the ominous pop up trying to subtly convince you to change your mind my telling you everything you’re also losing access to. Ignore it and hit ‘Turn Off’. That’s it!

6. Nuisance ads?

While it’s certainly not part of the data breach, and Facebook’s January 2018 changes were specifically designed to limit the reach of advertisers on the platform anyway, this should still be the last stop on your “restrict access” tour.

Keep in mind that advertisers on Facebook are specifically able to target you and your connections based on information you’ve shared as well as your past behaviours. Limiting access and deciding what information to share will also affect which ads you get shown.

First off, you’ll want to curate the list of advertisers you’ve interacted with. Under this section, you can decide to view past ads you’ve used, clicked on and visited.

You can also choose to remove these apps, thereby removing any future information of yours from being collected.



The next thing you’ll want to do is adjust any future information shared. For this, collapse the Advertisers tab and head to ‘Your Information’.

This is some of the most basic information that you can toggle on and off and that advertisers use to target you through Facebook marketing.

And, finally, work with the ‘Ad Settings’ tab to decide on whether or not certain ads for certain products can be shown to you, whether your Facebook activity can be tracked and used elsewhere (via retargeting), and whether you’re okay with your social actions being used to send you offers that you may like.


While you’re busy using these steps to protect your privacy and cover your data, Facebook is in full-time damage control mode and you can bet they’ll have their own changes rolling out.

Make sure to read Facebook’s full, revised data and privacy policy to get a sense of what you’re acquiescing to and the changes planned in the next few months.


Matt Williamson is the Company Director of Digital Marketing Adelaide. He keeps busy doing what he enjoys most – talking. He has a passion for social media and all things digital marketing.

Matt is an internet entrepreneur, social media expert, multiple business owner and digital marketer who specialises in assisting businesses to generate more revenue via the power of online advertising and digital marketing. Matt regularly speaks at events as a keynote speaker focusing on digital marketing & social media.

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