It seems that everyone is worried about their Facebook privacy as of late, and for good reason. With details hitting the media of how Russia and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have managed to compromise users’ data, those of us with accounts are now scrambling to identify how best to protect ourselves.

Yet lack of privacy is not a new concern with social media. Online platforms have become such a normal part of daily life that we rarely stop to think about where our uploads go and who can see them.

The right to use a free social media service comes at a price. We all sacrifice a certain level of personal information just to use the platforms we tap into on a daily basis. There is no real way to prevent that short of deleting your existing profile.

So how can you still be on Facebook but keep the invasion of your content and information at a minimum? We’ll be digging into several tips on how to lock down your Facebook privacy, but first let’s talk about why Facebook’s lack of privacy is so controversial right now.

What’s the Big Deal?

If you haven’t been up to speed on Facebook’s privacy debacles, there are two major data breaches that currently under scrutiny:

  • Russia’s influence over the last presidential election via social media advertising
  • The data breach of up to 87 million users by Cambridge Analytica, a data firm connected to President Trump’s election campaign

While Facebook privacy is not a new issue, these two instances brought to light a major flaw in the collection and use of user data. The manipulation, fake news, and sneaky targeting brought about by shared information is not only impacting advertising, but major national elections.

Why is this a problem? It provides a direct influence over our country to outside nations. Thus, Mark Zuckerberg has been under careful questioning and scrutiny as he is pushed to provide a solution for this growing problem.

Pointing Fingers

But is Zuckerberg really 100 percent to blame? With Facebook and other social media platforms constantly changing, it can be hard to say who is really to blame: the creators or those with malicious intent.

The truth is that Facebook has been a pioneering entity in social media development and culture. They have been constantly evolving and pushing the envelope on how their platform can be used by individuals and businesses alike.

This territory is still new with many paths left untrodden. While clear mistakes have been made along the way—some of which could have been prevented—others aren’t identified until an issue arises.

“It’s clear now that we didn’t focus enough on preventing abuse,” Zuckerberg told CNN. “We didn’t take a broad enough view of what our responsibility is. That was a huge mistake, and it was my mistake.”

However he follows up with the fact that Facebook is addressing a lot of important questions, such as how can they secure their systems to keep people safe, as well as prevent the undermining of democracy.

“This is going to be a neverending battle,” he said in his CNN interview. “You never, ever solve security. It’s an arms race.”

It is important to note, too, that users do willingly sign up for the collection and use of the data they share with Facebook. While the methods may feel questionable, they are not entirely hidden. We as users agree to give away our information the moment we accept the terms and conditions.

How to Protect Your Privacy (Without Deleting Facebook)

Thankfully, Facebook isn’t entirely transparent. You can limit who can see your posts, information, and more with the right settings. Sit down, relax, and let’s go down a checklist of changes to help you feel more comfortable online.

Restricting Your Post Reach

First and foremost, let us start with who sees your content. You can limit what other users see on your profile to a great extent should you choose the right settings. Start by exploring your privacy:

  • Step One: Click the dropdown arrow on the top-right of your menu bar
  • Step Two: Select “Settings”, located near the bottom of the drown down menu
  • Step Three: Select “Privacy” from the right-hand menu

Notice your options here. Everything from who sees the content you post to how others can find you on Facebook’s platform is located in this one section. You can even limit the audience for all of your previous posts using the “Limit Past Posts” option.

Keep in mind this is a blanketed action that covers all of your posts to date on your profile. You can use it to limit your previous public posts so that they are visible only to users on your friends list. Simply click “Limit Past Posts” and follow the directives.

Likewise, you can decide who sees your future posts. You’ll still be able to edit this option with each future post you make, but what you put under “Who can see your future posts?” will become the default each time you go to share a new status, photo, or video.

Other settings include who can send you friend requests, and how people can find you on Facebook. You can even prevent search engines from being able to find and populate your profile in searches.

Stop Facebook from Eavesdropping

Remember those terms and conditions you didn’t read before signing up? They include a lot of stealthy advertising strategies, including listening in on your conversations for keywords and key phrases via your mobile device.

Though unsettling, this feature is thankfully optional. You can turn it off through your phone’s app settings. These settings can vary depending on whether you’re using an iPhone or Android device. Simply follow the steps below for the type of device you use.

Disabling Microphone on iPhone

  • Click on the “Settings” button from your menu screen
  • Scroll down until you find the tab for “Facebook”, then click on it
  • Press the slider button so it is no longer green to turn off the Microphone feature

Disabling Microphone on Android

  • Go to your Settings
  • Click Applications
  • Select Applications Manager
  • Find the Facebook option, then select “More”
  • Select the “Permissions” option
  • Tap to disable the microphone

Limit What Advertisers Can See

One of the major reasons why Facebook can and will likely always remain free is that it is a massive collector of free data. As you use this social media platform, they gain information about you that can help advertisers better understand what messages can and will appeal to you.

They gauge your interests based several things, such as:

  • Pages you like
  • Ads you’ve interacted with
  • Where you live and work
  • Your relationship status
  • Your education
  • Your social interactions

However, there is a way to restrict how much you share with Facebook’s AI and advertisers. Here’s what you can do:

  • Step One: Click the dropdown arrow on the top-right of your menu bar
  • Step Two: Select “Settings”, located near the bottom of the drown down menu
  • Step Three: Select “Ads” from the right-hand menu

From here you can clear the data banks listing your interests and advertisers you’ve interacted with, as well as limit what information you share in order for Facebook to determine which ads will perform best with you.

You can also access your ad settings as well as learn more about how Facebook advertising works.

Deactivate vs. Delete

Are you still planning your Facebook exodus? If so, it’s important to know the difference between deactivating your account and deleting it.

Deactivation is an option in your Settings menu under the “General” tab. Simply click on the “Manage Your Account” option under your General settings and follow the directions. However, doing this will not delete your information or your account. It simply temporarily suspends it until you’re ready to come back.

Your page won’t be accessible to anyone while it is deactivated and you can’t use the website without reactivating it. However, once you do everything will return as it was. If you’re looking to truly leave Facebook and wipe your data clean from its servers, you must delete your account.

To delete your account, click here and follow the directions. This process can take upwards of 90 days. Also, if there is data on your account you don’t want to lose, it’s wise to download a copy of your Facebook data. This option is available under the deactivation section of your settings.

We hope this tutorial helps you feel safer online, as well as provides you with more control. Even after you strengthen your settings, always keep in mind that nothing on the Internet is ever truly private. Enjoy your experience, but be mindful of what you publish.

At the end of the day, the first line of defense starts with you.