Data privacy, integrity and security have been under the microscope over the past weeks following Facebooks links with Cambridge Analytica, the company that was instrumental to the success of the Donald Trump Presidential campaign in January 2017.

While nobody basically cared for a year, it has now all of sudden come to the public’s attention that they actually don’t like Trump and what he stands for. Therefore, there is an attempted cross over the plains of the Serengeti where Facebook users are considering closing their accounts.

What is the real issue here? Why are people getting so uptight about what Facebook did? It mostly comes down to data integrity and storage. I recently read a very interesting article on which discusses this in some detail.

A step beyond?

Before we carry on, a lot of this article is going to focus on privacy, and it must be pointed out that this is a very emotive and subjective issue. One person’s idea of privacy is completely different to another’s.

And Facebook can’t devise a privacy policy which is tailor made to each of its 2.2 billion users; nor will it make every single person happy.

However, there are some generally accepted lines in the sand which no social media network should cross. Was Facebook naughty?

According to the article, Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica debacle has put users on high alert over what data is stored by the social network.

Facebook’s function to download stored data reveals the platform may be storing information users are unaware of, despite having unintentionally given their consent for this to be done.

The article adds that the social network has detailed information of every action a user makes on the platform every time they log in when using the app.

In addition, Facebook also stores mobile numbers added to a smartphone, even if the number is not linked to Facebook. This essentially stores every number added to a smartphone when the app is installed.

The article adds that according to the social network, most of a user’s data is available by logging into the Facebook account under settings. But how often do we go there? Facebook knows we don’t but will point to this as a defence as it is up to us to make sure that our privacy settings are bullet proof.

Genuine interest

While I believe that Facebook does take its security and privacy responsibilities very seriously, the problem of having a blanket solution is that often, the blanket is patchy, and holes occur.

So, what is Facebooks viewpoint regarding data storage?

The article points out that Facebook stores data from posts users have commented on or liked, apps they have used and anything they have searched for.

It adds that users are able to download a copy of their personal information which will be available as a zip file containing every image and video uploaded to the site or through Facebook Messenger, and detailed logs of activity on the social network. To access a copy of your Facebook data, click the settings tab and under General Account Settings, click Download a copy of your Facebook data.

While Facebook may have had the best intentions when coming up with this option…THIS IS VERY DANGEROUS! Even if you think that you have deleted a post or a picture, this is the internet baby, nothing ever fully disappears. We have already heard horror stories of Facebook accounts that have been hacked in the past. Who knows what information hackers might have.

What does this mean?

Let’s have a look at some of the information that will be found when you download a copy of your data. All of the below information is taken from the article.

  • Active Sessions: All stored active sessions, including date, time, device, IP address, machine cookie and browser information;
  • Ads Clicked: Dates, times and titles of ads clicked (limited retention period);
  • Credit Cards: If you make purchases on Facebook (ex in apps) and have given Facebook your credit card number;
  • Facial Recognition Data: A unique number based on a comparison of the photos you’re tagged in. We use this data to help others tag you in photos;
  • IP Addresses: A list of IP addresses where you have logged into your Facebook account. It won’t include all historical IP addresses, as they are deleted according to a retention schedule;
  • Last Location: The last location associated with an update;
  • Logins and logouts: IP address, date and time associated with logins and logouts to your Facebook account;
  • Phone Numbers: Mobile phone numbers you’ve added to your account, including verified mobile numbers you have added for security purposes;
  • Posts by You: Anything you posted to your own Timeline, like photos, videos and status updates;
  • Posts by Others: Anything posted to your Timeline by someone else, like wall posts or links shared on your Timeline by friends;
  • Shares: Content (eg: a news article) you have shared with others on Facebook using the Share button or link; and
  • Videos: Videos you have posted to your Timeline.

The bottom line is that you need to be very selective on how you use Facebook. Yes, we would all love to be like the Kardashians where we get paid to exist on social media. But what are the costs associated with this?

I was at home one Sunday night and my wife had an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians on in the background. Chloe was bitching about the fact that she wasted to announce her pregnancy to the world, but didn’t get the opportunity to do this because somebody posted it on social media before she could. This is a perfect case in point on how something that is supposed to be personal and special for a person gets dragged through the mud and shoved in the face of all the world to see because for a split second Chloe never had control of the message.

The bottom line

What is the bottom line here? We need to be in control of the information that Facebook needs and how it is used. We do this by being very selective about what we post. Maybe think twice about posting a provocative honeymoon snap shot. Perhaps don’t engage in discussions surrounding race, religion and politics. And most importantly, keep your children safe, there are sickos out there.