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Tech Articles

The Facebook Threat: How To Protect Yourself

Nov 15, 2017

The Facebook Threat: How To Protect Yourself


Our guide to turning off the algorithms that lost the election.

If you’re curious about how much Facebook knows about you,
it’s surprisingly easy to check.

You know I googled, what?!

Step 1. Go to your Facebook settings on the upper right corner of your screen.

Step 2. Scroll down to “account settings” and then “ads” on mobile, or just “adverts” on desktop.

Step 3. They’ll be right there under your interests. Everything you’ve viewed all over the web is there. I can personally verify that it works because after researching for my last article about Sex Robots, my ad preferences think I’m interested in finding my own robot companion. Yikes.

Step 4 (optional). So Facebook thinks you’re interested in something odd because your “friend” Googled it when he or she was on your computer, right? Hey, we don’t judge, and it’s thankfully easy enough to get rid of so it won’t show up until next time your “friend” wants to search something sketchy. Just click the ‘x’ in the corner of something specific, or you can choose to opt out of Facebook ad tracking entirely by selecting so when you make it that far.

Clearly, if you’re on a social media platform owned by Facebook, your thoughts are being influenced by a couple lines of coding. Facebook’s namesake website alone has two billion monthly users, so it has a pretty firm grasp on the world. But with great power comes great responsibility, and many argue the tech giant’s leverage is too strong. Isn’t Facebook just trying to help make life easier for the common person? There’s no real threat here, right?

Many experts strongly disagree. In light of being Russian’s platform of choice for interfering in the 2016 election, Facebook has been scrutinised for assisting in the spread of the dreaded fake news. Prime examples of its contamination during election season include publicising wrong legal advice, spreading fibs of broken voting machines, and other false tales solely created to make non-existent problems seem real. Facebook has been so responsible for this fake news epidemic that we already wrote an entire article about it. In a nutshell, Facebook displayed paid ads spreading misleading information that is partially responsible for electing our current president. When uncovered, Facebook integrated the ability to verify the authenticity of an ad by a third-party fact-checking company, however, it was too little too late to be effective. And it doesn’t just affect our politics. Businesses are equally vulnerable. Companies worth billions can shrink to nothing when subtle tweaks of Facebook’s coding makes them less favorable to pop up in our news feeds. Take Zynga, the company responsible for those in-app Facebook games from about half a decade ago once being worth about $10 billion and now being worth less than the building their headquarters resides in. Facebook is the reason you haven’t been getting as many Farmville or Mafia Wars requests from your friends.

Regardless of how you spend your time on the computer, the sheer amount Facebook knows about us is a little alarming. At what point should we draw the line between Facebook making things easier for us and knowing too much about us?

Uhm, maybe at the fake news? Because really, nobody should think that’s a good thing. When Facebook uses paid ads that imply a lie is true, it is a real problem. Fake news is partially to blame for electing a president most voters didn’t vote for. Since Facebook’s effort on eradicating fake news from our news feed has been sub-par, we should all have a couple go-to ideas on how to fight fake news. You can search for the reliability of for your news, refer to websites designed to objectively break down big stories, and simply be sceptical and do your own research. It really starts on an individual level.

Sure, it’s off-putting to see how much Facebook knows about you. But is having tailored ads really that big of a deal? In all reality, probably not. Even if their ads are targeted towards you, it’s because these ads could be something you’re interested in. They’re not forcing you to click on them – they’re merely giving you the opportunity to. It may not be ideal for all of us, but it’s the times we live in. Just like adjusting to a potential future with indistinguishable sex robots, it’s just something we’ll have to learn to deal with. Plus, thankfully, we won’t get as many Farmville requests.