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Stop Facebook from stalking you

The recent bombshell that Cambridge Analytica had collected 50 million Facebook users data with its third party app has many of us wondering: is this the result of users sharing too much information, or do tech companies like Facebook have a responsibility to be more transparent and forthcoming with how they're using your data and exactly what they do with it?

It's a little bit of both. To be clear, this isn't a typical data breach--no information was hacked or stolen by thieves--but rather data was mined by 260,000 users who allowed the app to access their data and consequentially those users' friends. Majority of the Facebook users affected did not consent to the scraping of their data.

Here, we'll provide the steps you need so that you can lock down your social media accounts (assuming you aren't ready to delete your accounts entirely), and stop Facebook ads from following you around the web.

A quick note before we get started: if you own a smartphone, you have to accept that it's a tracking device. You do have the ability to change how it tracks you in your phone's settings. Any time you download an app, you allow the developers of that app to access your data. You should always read up on the apps terms of service and privacy policy.

Revoke app access within Facebook

This is where things can get slightly complicated, but we will break it down for you. If you signed up for a third party app using your Facebook account, for example, Spotify, you will need to make sure you have an alternative way of signing in to Spotify---ideally signing in with your email address and a password. Make sure you login to your account and see how you set it up before moving to the next step. Simply deleting the app from Facebook before ensuring you have another way to access your account could make it difficult for you log back into that account.

Once you determined you have another way of logging into the third party app, you can now go into your Facebook account. Click the down arrow at the top right of your screen, then click settings--->apps. Here you can view all of the apps connected to your Facebook account. You can choose which accounts you'd like to completely revoke access to by hovering your mouse over the app and clicking the "x" to remove it, or you can edit the settings which will limit what activity your friends can see.

Additionally, while you're on the apps settings, click on "Apps Others Use".

Here you'll want to uncheck all of these boxes, or at least the ones you do not want Facebook to use when your friends are accessing third-party apps and sites. Click "save" after you're done unchecking items you don't want to be shared.

Control the ads you see on Facebook

Next, click "Ads" which is directly below the "Apps" link. Here you can view all of the categories for ads that are targeted to you based on pages or advertisers you've liked or interacted with. You can delete all of this by hovering over each box and clicking the "x".

Control your privacy settings and what you post on Facebook

Now would be a good time to review your privacy settings on Facebook. Try to limit your posts and information you share to friends only. We recommend that any personally identifying information, like your birthday, phone number, or email address, should be set so only you can see it. Additionally, change your password if you haven't in a long time, and enable two-factor authentication. Don't add people you don't know on Facebook. Think twice before taking quizzes. If they're asking for personally identifying information, it may be data brokers and developers trying to create a profile on you. Finally, think about what you share on Facebook and other social media sites. Don't post anything that would make you embarrassed if it made the news.

Install extensions to your browsers to further protect your privacy

Adblockers prevent ads from loading altogether. A popular and highly recommended ad blocker among professionals is uBlock. Many media sites have become savvy to sensing if you have an adblocker installed and will not let you enter the site until you've turned the blocker off. You can easily add those sites to a whitelist which will automatically disable the blocker whenever you visit the site.

Facebook uses Facebook Pixel, a piece of code, that tracks users across the internet. It allows marketers to see how successful their Facebook Ads work---and allows the same ads to follow users across the internet. Facebook Disconnect is a free browser extension that can stop this type of ad from following you.

Other tracker blocker add-ons worth installing are Privacy Badger and Disconnect. They block third-party cookies that collect information on you. For example, if you clicked or engaged with an ad, you may notice that ad continues to pop-up and follow you around the web. The only downside with these blockers is that sometimes they cause pages to not load properly, but you can simply add them to a whitelist as we mentioned with adblockers.

Opt out of data brokers

Facebook lists several third-party data providers. These companies provide data to Facebook. You can opt out of each them directly by clicking here and scrolling down to United States. Please note that these aren't the only data brokers out there who have your information. If you'd like to opt out from more of these lists, this site is a good place to get started. Remember: free social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all have a bottom line and need to make money, too. That's why they have relationships with these brokers---to target their ads to their users more effectively. The more users who engage on their platforms and click ads, the more money they can make.

Clear your browser history

Clearing your browser history from time to time will help delete cookies and trackers.

Delete the Facebook app

There's been some debate whether Facebook and Instagram are listening to their users, and subsequently targeting ads on their platforms based on users' conversations. If you're convinced this has happened to you, turn off the app's access to your microphone in your phone settings, but it might be best to delete the app from your phone and access Facebook from your browser---for now.

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