So, while you are wondering whether you are one of the 87million who had their Facebook information harvested, it's time to let Zuckerberg's Congressional investigation take care of the corporate side and take stock of our own personal responsibility in protecting our data.
First a brief review: Back in 2014, Alexander Kogan created 'This is your Digital Life", a personality quiz that 270,000 Facebook users downloaded. From those downloads he was able to yield personal information from the Digital Life's 87 million extended network of friends across Facebook which was given/sold to think-tank, Cambridge Analytica, to assist in the 2016 presidential election, to target voters.
Cambridge Analytica have backtracked a little, claiming they deleted all of the data as soon as Facebook told them to, but the data set keeps on popping up in different areas, most recently in Colorado.
New features will most definitely be appearing on Facebook, including "unsend' features in Messenger and stricter privacy policies. In addition, Facebook has released a tool that lets you know whether you were affected. From Monday, some Facebook users will have seen messages in their News feed under the title 'Protecting Your Information'.
However, enough about Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica fallout, Facebook can probably turn the tables on the bad press (since they have access to our inner thoughts). We want to discover more about self- preservation and privacy, not the value of Facebook shares.
So, lets talk about these apps a bit. It’s very inviting to download what we term, convenience apps every single day. Convenience apps are apps that allow you to order ahead in a coffee shop, monitor and track exercise programs or save us from going online to find out about the next flight deal.
Apps collect your age, interests, purchasing habits, locations, visited places, health, basically all the valuable data bites that make a digital shadow, which can be sold on to whoever is the potential buyer. An old adage in Marketing goes “If you’re not paying, you’re the product" and unfortunately the Cambridge Analytica scandal demonstrated this all too well.
There are some telling signs as to which apps will be selling on your data, for example when an app asks to collect huge amounts of info that has nothing to do with the app itself. For example, those LED flashlights apps that need access to location, camera – it's just a light on your phone.
Allowing these apps, a view into your digital data isn't necessary and may be worth scrapping from your phone altogether, never mind the inconvenience.
Not only that, but apps will also give companies a more direct line to your data than a website. As far back as 2014, the Starbucks app was storing unencrypted passwords, email addresses and GPS details. The lack of responsibility when it comes to app encryption spanning across multiple industries is astounding, including dating apps that have recently been found to leak info all the time.
Obviously, this is all about to be seriously put under the microscope, but until it gets updated, excuse the pun, you better make sure that you regularly update your apps, check permissions and delete apps that you aren’t using.
Updates, although usually a positive action can get a bit tricky with apps because with all the new security features they may be accessing your data in new and innovative ways, even when dormant.
Take control and reset your settings. Apple iOS gives you a summary of your apps and their access - go to Settings > Privacy. Android allows users to manage app permissions by going to Settings > App > Permissions. Switch off all the permissions when you aren’t using the apps.
Check the privacy policies, that means making sure there is one and that it makes sense and how the data is encrypted. This is at the bottom of the page in the App store, before you download.