Don’t Want Your Facebook Profile Scraped? A Do-It Yourself Fix

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg tried to reassure users Wednesday that its new and old modifications will prevent the wholesale capture of millions of personal profiles, like the 50 million that fell into the hands of political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica by 2015.

But an MIT team says canny software developers could still amass these profiles on a broad scale, without the consent of most users, by using a custom browser extension. Whether they could get around Facebook’s latest restrictions is yet to be seen.

But if you want to take matters into your own hands, here’s a self-help solution offered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based group that advocates for data privacy, security, and free speech. EFF offers detailed instructions to opt out of Facebook’s API—that gateway that allows outside developers to tap into the social media network’s user population to create apps or target messages to people like you.

The opt-out method requires users to tunnel into Facebook’s account management pages and take multiple steps. It shouldn’t be this hard, writes EFF’s Gennie Gebhart, the author of the EFF post published Monday.

“You shouldn’t have to wade through complicated privacy settings in order to ensure that the companies with which you’ve entrusted your personal information are making reasonable, legal efforts to protect it,” Gebhart says. “But Facebook has allowed third parties to violate user privacy on an unprecedented scale, and, while legislators and regulators scramble to understand the implications and put limits in place, users are left with the responsibility to make sure their profiles are properly configured.”

Blocking your data from spilling through the API comes with a price, however, as Gebhart points out. “Keep in mind that this disables ALL platform apps (like Farmville, Twitter, or Instagram) and you will not be able to log into sites using your Facebook login,” she writes.

There’s another safeguard that stops short of closing off the API. You can restrict the personal data that can be shared by another person who has access to your profile, and carries your data along into an app they use. Gebhart includes instructions for that too.

Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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