Here are a few tips to make it harder for Facebook to invade your privacy and sell your habits and activities to third parties
The company Facebook, founded by Mark Zuckerberg, makes the platform of the same name available to its users free of charge. On the platform, users can create a profile for themselves, their band, a company, etc. and share almost any information with third parties and network digitally. Technically, Facebook is very easy to use and can be used with practically any Internet-capable device. Equivalent alternatives – even though they have been announced time and again – do not exist to date. This is one of the main reasons why it is still very popular
Facebook, the company, has bought up many companies and products in recent years and integrated them into its offering. These include the equally popular products WhatsApp and Instagram, for example. Facebook can be found – either directly or via purchased products – on almost every smartphone today and is used regularly by hundreds of millions of people. In some cases, they do not even realize it directly or have a user account on Facebook – for example, by embedding Facebook content in blogs and other websites.
Users have little knowledge and no real control over the data collected by Facebook and their usage
The users reveal an incredible amount about themselves. They also reveal a great deal about their private and even intimate matters, which are discussed or sent via WhatsApp, for example. Not all users are aware that their activities are recorded in great detail, processed and made available to third parties, directly or indirectly, for a wide variety of purposes in return for payment.
In other words: Facebook is by no means free. On Facebook, the user pays without alternative with data about his habits and activities. He pays with his attention and interaction and ultimately with his time – and he has no idea or any control over who starts what exactly and when with the data collected by Facebook.
In addition to the use of the data for advertising purposes, the data can also be used for social profiling, the preparation of criminal offences (e.g. burglaries in absentia), intelligence work, training of computer systems for image surveillance in public places, etc. – and typically, as the collection period increases, the data is so extensive and detailed that very precise profiles can be created in dossier-like quality.
Reason enough, therefore, to put your own actions to the test and to act more reflectively in the future. It is not a question of refraining from using Facebook – even if that would certainly be the most sustainable and consistent measure. It is about using Facebook in a way that maintains more control over the shared data and thus creates a certain balance.
For this to succeed, you need to do a few things. This includes using a browser that protects your privacy as much as possible and adding useful features with plugins. I will explain what exactly you need and give you at least a short overview of how to use it.
Download the free Firefox browser from the Mozilla Foundation website and install it on your computer. It doesn’t matter if you are using a Windows, Mac or Linux computer – Firefox is available for all major operating systems (also on Android and iOS).
Adjust Firefox settings to ensure that your privacy is respected. This step is not as easy and requires a lot of work. In this section I’ll help you make the most important settings.
Adjust the Startpage
Adjust Privacy and Security Settings
You should generally prohibit access in the Permissions section. This will prevent you from accidentally giving a website permission to query your location, use your microphone or camera. Unfortunately, to do this, you have to go to the settings of the respective functionality in each case and remove the checkmark there.
If you do occasionally want or need to make your microphone, camera or location available to a website, you can use another browser – for example “Chromium” or “Chrome” – for this purpose.
about:config – Be careful!
Install some plugins that help to protect your privacy. I will show you which plugins I use and what they are good for. I will also explain the “risks and side effects” of using these plugins and how to best use them.
|uBlock Origin||Finally an efficient blocker. Processor-friendly and modest in memory requirements.||Download|
|uMatrix||Control all your browser’s requests with simple point-and-click. Use it to block scripts, IFrames, ads, Facebook, etc.||Download|
|NoScript||Maximum protection for your browser: NoScript allows active content only for trusted domains of your choice to prevent exploitation of security holes.||Download|
|HTTPS Everywhere||Encrypt the Internet! Use HTTPS security automatically on many websites.||Download|
|Privacy Badger||Privacy Badger automatically learns to block invisible trackers.||Download|
|Decentral Eyes||Protects against tracking through “free” centralized content delivery.||Download|
|Facebook Container||Facebook Container isolates your Facebook activity from your other Internet activity, preventing Facebook from tracking you through third-party cookies outside of the Facebook website.||Download|
Browser plugins that filter or modify content basically need access to this content as well. This means that such plugins “know” which pages are accessed and which content is displayed. A malicious plugin could misuse this data and forward it to third parties.
That’s why it’s important to limit yourself to trusted plugins and get them from safe sources. Likewise, plugins that are not needed should be completely removed from the browser again (and not just deactivated) to minimize risks. Furthermore, you should always make sure that the source code of the plugins is publicly available and viewable.
Of course, I cannot give a 100% guarantee for the plugins mentioned above – certainly not for the future. The use is always at your own risk. However, I am not aware of any negative information so far. Moreover, they are open source – so the source code of these plugins is viewable and thus also verifiable.
The download links refer exclusively to the official plugin directory of the Mozilla Foundation.
Change your habbits! This is by far the most difficult step. It requires you to change your usage habits, and unfortunately that’s not very comfortable – especially if you use Facebook on a smartphone (how you can better protect yourself there, I’ll explain in one of my next articles).
- Choose a strong password and be sure to enable two-factor authentication. This will make it much more difficult for hackers and other criminals to take over your Facebook profile.
- Use only a secure browser to access Facebook. Avoid the apps. Avoid insecure browsers and those that are fundamentally harmful to your privacy (e.g. Google Chrome). To do so, open a new tab or window and remember to log out of Facebook and close the browser when you’re done.
- Use Facebook sparingly. Meet your friends instead. The more you use Facebook, and the longer you use it, the more data Facebook collects about you and the more intimate details it reveals over time.
- Do not use your primary email address to register with Facebook. Create your own email address with a free mail provider for this purpose – you will then have the option to abandon the address should it be compromised as a result of misuse.
- Never post information about your real home, vacations, or other absences – especially before or during an absence. This information can be used by criminals to harass you or break into your home.
- Never respond to requests or attempts to contact you from strangers. Always refuse them. This will protect you from stalking and other criminal activity.
- Avoid posting information on your profile about your relationship status, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, skin color, or political affiliation. They can be misused to harass, blackmail, or otherwise harm you.
- Do not use Facebook’s official apps. They contain tracking functionality that is difficult to block and require very extensive access rights to your personal data, especially on smartphones.
- Use the “Like” function sparingly – it is used to build up an interest profile about you and then provide you with advertising content accordingly. You risk slipping into a self-built filter bubble without noticing it right away.
- Avoid Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and other communication products that exchange data with Facebook or even come from Facebook itself. Even if you are assured that the communication will be kept confidential, you can’t really be sure – they are US companies that (have to) give out data to government agencies in case of doubt. In addition, your activities are linked to your Facebook profile – including who you communicate with, when and where. Instead, use secure and privacy-friendly messengers like Signal, Telegram, Threema or Elements – they are mostly free to use and offer similar featuresets.
- Don’t download files offered to you via Facebook or any messenger – they could come from a hacked user and contain malware. Always check with the sender in person – by phone – to make sure the file really came from them!
If you follow my instructions and defeat your inner bastard – i.e. adapt your behavior – then you will reveal much less about your habits and activities on Facebook in the future and thus protect your privacy much better than before.
What do you think about Facebook and privacy? Let’s discuss it…