2018.04.10Facebook Privacy: It's About Who You Know

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about Facebook privacy, and how one can examine and change settings related to the data you're giving to third parties through the use of Facebook authentication (that is, using Facebook to log into third-party applications and websites).

This morning I realize that everything I put in that post will not be enough to significantly help you keep your information from being leaked to third parties. The reason is the entire point of social media: connection with other people.

Yesterday, I was confident I wouldn't be seeing the warning banner that Facebook talked about displaying to the 87 million affected by the Cambridge Analytica scandal. This morning, I can reproduce for you exactly what that banner said. Despite my elaborate system of lists to compartmentalize my Facebook relationships, my account is among the 87 million whose data was provided to Cambridge Analytica, and here's why: even though I never logged into the "This is Your Digital Life" app, a friend of mine did. Facebook explains:

As a result, the following information was likely shared with "This Is Your Digital Life":

  • Your public profile, Page likes, birthday and current city
A small number of people who logged into "This is Your Digital Life" also shared their own news feed, timeline, posts, messages which may have included posts and messages from you. They may also have shared your hometown.

There's no mention of a time period, except to say that it stopped in 2015. This still means that potentially several years' worth of my "digital life" -- more precisely, the time between 2015 and whenever I connected to this person -- was exposed to Soviet-born Aleksandr Kogan and Cambridge Analytica and whomever else copied it simply because one of my Facebook friends used the survey app.

Perhaps it might be best if we paused and thought about our Facebook relationships as we would consider a sexual partner: We now know we have to trust our Facebook friends to protect and minimize the data they provide to others, because their data could include information about us. I imagine this isn't too dissimilar to the trust we must place in a potential partner to protect their bodies from diseases we could contract. In both cases, we have to determine whether these other people have been reckless and put themselves and us in jeopardy -- whether they knew it or not. There are things we can do prophylactically in both cases to reduce, but not eliminate, our risk.

Make good choices.


P.S.: Gizmodo apparently feels similar frustration.

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