Over the years, you’ve probably logged into a lot of services on Facebook without thinking about how those services use your data. Some of those services may have leveraged your data to undermine the very foundations of American democracy. Hard to say!
New reports from the Guardianand New York Timesreveal how a Trump-aligned data-gathering service called Cambridge Analytica “exploited” information from millions of people in the lead-up to the 2016 election. It was pretty simple: The firm created a personality test app called “thisisyourdigitallife,” and people opted in to take it, granting the app permission to scrape their personal data in the process. It also harvested their friends’ data.
Facebook has a lot to answer for, but in the meantime, you might be curious to see if you’ve given sketchy apps access to your data over the years. There’s a very good chance you have: I found today that 170 apps were able to access some level of my personal Facebook data. Some of them definitely seem off.
Though Facebook is fairly transparent about what kind of data apps are able to access when you connect them to your profile, granting permission on an indefinite basis only requires a couple of taps. And until now, users might reasonably expect that simple personality quizzes or one-off games weren’t being used to create a complex network for the purposes of voter manipulation.
In other words, it’s a good time to check in.
Here’s how to check your app settings on Facebook:
– On desktop, click the downward facing arrow in the upper-right side of your News Feed. Then, click “Settings.”
– From there, tap “Apps” in the left-hand sidebar.
– On mobile, tap the icon showing three stacked lines. The icon is on top of your screen if you’re using the Android app, and it’s on the bottom if you’re on iOS.
– Then, tap “Settings.” You may need to scroll down a bit to find it. Tap “Account Settings,” then scroll down and tap “Apps.”
– Finally, tap “Logged in with Facebook” to see the services accessing your account.
Once you’re here, you’ll be able to see all of the apps you’ve logged into with Facebook. A lot of them, like Airbnb or Amazon, are probably fine! But others should give you pause. For example, this embarrassing Pokemon personality quiz I took years ago:
It has access to a ton of my data, including my relationship status, friend list, and birthday. Needless to say, I clicked “Remove App” to get rid of it.
I don’t remember taking this quiz—or, tragically, which Pokemon I am—though Facebook would reasonably say I opted into it and am therefore responsible for any data I hand over to it. But I signed up for it a long time ago, likely when I was intoxicated, and who knows what it’s taken from me since then.
So: Take as much responsibility for yourself and your data as you can, because it impacts your friends, too. Dig through your connected apps. Remove some of them if you must. And hey, maybe think about deleting Facebook all together.