Recently the News about how Facebook is watching user’s activities on its platforms broke out on the internet again. You know that awkward moment when you discovered you are been watched or followed especially by a total stranger? Oh, what movie comes to mind o….? Or imagine you’re inside the big brother house, with cameras everywhere down to your bedroom and everything you do is covered by CCTV cameras.
Well, hate to burst this news to you but Facebook is actually stalking your activities on its platforms. Yes, you!
Facebook Inc. has been sued severally for allegedly spying on Instagram users, this time through the unauthorized use of their mobile phone cameras.
Facebook is watching you, taking notes, even profiting from it and you do not even know about it!
That’s not all, Facebook mines this data even when you are not using Facebook, how creepy could that be? but then Facebook blames bugs for this each time.
In this post, we’ll go through different means at which Facebook stalks your activities on the net and gathers your information for advertisers, we would also look at how you can put an end to this data mining and take a cue at how two of the world’s biggest companies are word-boxing each other concerning your data.
What you should know about Facebook watch activities
Facebook uses some data to put you into what we’d call “interest” categories, such as people who live in Lekki and are into cats or someone who stays in Ibadan and also likes shawarma.
You can see the boxes Facebook has put you in by looking under its “ad preferences” menus. This is actually not rocket science. But you should know that Facebook actually knows who your friends are, what you “like,” and what and where you post. You entered that information yourself !.
But there’s also a ton of information Facebook gathers that you didn’t volunteer to the social network — and you probably had no idea it was being collected.
How does Facebook get this info?
Everybody’s experience on Facebook and Instagram is quite different. Peter’s feed might be stories about food or high-ranking restaurants while Paul’s might be Luxury Cars and real estate ads. That’s because Facebook’s software uses the data it collects about you to tailor what it shows you.
There are four main ways Facebook collect your data.
1. Through your actions on Facebook
The first is through actions you take on Facebook platforms, like Instagram, Whatsapp, and Facebook itself, including Liking posts, sharing, commenting, and clicking on ads. You can see a summary of what it knows about you this way under the “Your Interests” tab.
2. Your activity on the internet
According to research published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Facebook has tracker pixels or cookie-sharing code on about 30 percent of the top 10,000 websites.
Its tracking tech is used in 32% of the top 500 android apps which you probably have visited and the tracking tech reaches 1 billion people per month.
The social network giant provides its advertising partners tracking software they embed in apps, websites, loyalty cards, and other systems.
3. Your contact information
Facebook allows advertisers to upload lists of people they want to reach directly with contact information. Let’s say, a particular e-commerce website collects email addresses as part of a rewards program, it can tell Facebook to target ads at everyone it has an email for.
Advertisers can also target potential customers using other sources of data, like publicly-available voter records or lists of names purchased from data brokers. You can see which companies and groups have targeted you in this way under “Advertisers” -Who used a contact list added to Facebook
4. Your Location
Facebook can also collect location data through its apps (including Instagram and Messenger), by asking to “know your location” in your browser, and by logging in where you connect to the Internet. It uses this data to serve location-targeted ads as well as to determine when specific people are visiting specific places. Location-based ad targeting on Facebook has been found to be the most difficult to stop.
Facebook allows advertisers to target messages to the people the data suggests might be most receptive — or, in the case of political ads, easily influenced.
You can see how Facebook is watching you too.
The “Off-Facebook Activity” is a feature Facebook just released and users can also have access to these features on the app or via Facebook’s website to track the information Facebook is gathering about you and then put a stop to it.
The feature will show you 180 days’ worth of the data Facebook collects about you from the many organizations and advert partners.
Facebook’s surveillance is hard to avoid. You don’t need to “like” or comment on a post or even use a “login with Facebook” button. You don’t necessarily have to be logged in to the Facebook app or website on your phone — companies and other websites can report your information or data to Facebook, which will then be added to the activity to your account.
Your off-Facebook activity is not exposed or available to your friends or the public; they won’t see it in the News Feed.
Advertisers only get the chance to target ads to people with Facebook accounts who triggered the trackers. Thanks to the “Off-Facebook Activity” tool, you now know that Jumia told Facebook when you visited its online store, viewed an item, or added an item to a shopping cart. Ever wanted to buy a particular heel or shoe and you wake up the next morning seeing ads of that particular item oppressing you until you consider buying it?
How to stop Facebook
So what can you do if you don’t want Facebook collecting all this data about you in the first place? That requires more hand-to-hand combat on the keyboard.
You can do a few things to stop Facebook’s surveillance, some of which haven’t been available before the introduction of the “Off-Facebook Activity” page, which you can use to ask Facebook to cut it out.
- From that page, click on “Clear History” to tell Facebook to remove that data from your account. After you’ve done that, you still need to inform Facebook you want them to stop adding this data to your profile in the future.
- On the same “Off-Facebook Activity” page, look for another option to “Manage Future Activity.” (To find this, click on “More Options” and then click the additional button labeled “Manage Future Activity,” and then toggle off the button next to “Future Off-Facebook Activity.”
You should know that
Turning off your off-Facebook activity will mean losing access to certain apps and websites you’ve used Facebook to log in to in the past. Changing these settings doesn’t actually stop Facebook from collecting data about you from other businesses. Facebook will just “disconnect” it from your profile.
Mostly they’re just promising they’ll no longer use it to target you with ads on Facebook and Instagram — which means you’ll be less likely to be manipulated based on your data.
On your computer, you can use a Web browser that fights trackers, like Mozilla’s Firefox or go even further by adding an ad or tracking-blocking extension to your browser, such as the EFF’s Privacy Badger, this can prevent Facebook’s software from connecting with other sites.
In smartphone apps, where tracking is also increasingly common, tracking even is harder to stop. A few services, such as Disconnect’s Privacy Pro, scan app activity and block tracker traffic, but they may also interfere with the way apps function on your device.
Finally, there’s an ultimate solution, you can say bye-bye to Facebook and Instagram forever, close and delete your accounts, pretty sure that’s not a choice most people are willing to make.
Cook vs Zuck at loggerheads over your privacy
Facebook and Apple are among the biggest companies in the world and the two tech giants have always locked horns concerning user data and the way user information is been used, this has in recent times erupted few fights between the two tech companies and has also caused some sort of bad blood between the two angry CEOs having different points of view about user privacy.
Apple has on many occasions made user privacy part of its core business strategy, going as far as engaging in public spats with the Department of Justice (D.O.J) to protect it.
That’s definitely easy because it deals in products and services, not data, and positions itself as the more private and secure alternative.
Facebook on the other hand was built to survive on user data, so its consistent fights with the Department of Justice (D.O.J) have been over user privacy violations. The latest tussle between the two tech giants started when Facebook shows a prompt to iPhone and iPad users, urging them to allow tracking of their devices to deliver personalized ads.
This move definitely didn’t go well with Apple, and it instead responded by rolling out new privacy protections that could affect Facebook’s data-dependent ad business.
In a statement released by Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, he said “Technology does not need vast hauling of personal data, stitched together across dozens of websites and apps, in order to succeed,”
Cook said. “Advertising existed and thrived for decades without it. And we’re here today because the path of least resistance is rarely the path of wisdom. If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform.
Facebook makes vast majority of its fortune from data collected through trackeRS and isn’t pleased with Apple’s decision
The tech giant has responded by claiming Apple’s move is an attack on small businesses that use Facebook ads to target potential customers. Businesses that needs this data to thrive especially from the damaging effect of the pandemic currently ravaging the world.
Now Facebook is considering suing Apple, and Apple is all set and ready for whatever is coming.
Apple can decide to make user privacy part of its selling point for its customers, and it can also mandate it from any apps that want access to iPhone users. Even when those apps are made by companies as big and powerful as Facebook. Looks like Apple does call the shot here.