How to protect your personal info on Facebook

Facebook users who are worried about protecting their personal information in the wake of the alleged privacy breach by Cambridge Analytica have a few options at their disposal.

Options include tweaking account settings, deleting mobile app or getting off Facebook altogether

A cellphone user thumbs through the privacy settings on a Facebook account in Ottawa on Wednesday. Limiting access by third-party apps is one way users can help protect their privacy. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Facebook users who are worried about protecting their personal information in the wake of the alleged privacy breach by Cambridge Analytica have a few options at their disposal.

The U.K. data firm has denied any wrongdoing and Facebook has said that, while none of the information leaked was the result of a data breach, it did appear to involve the passing of personal information from Cambridge Analytica to a third party when that data was supposed to have been destroyed.

The scandal has hit Facebook's stock price hard, and angry users have launched a social media campaign encouraging people to delete their accounts. Short of taking that step, there are also a few other things that can help to control how your personal information is used.

Changing account settings

Cambridge Analytica was able to collect data on so many Facebook users via a third-party app called thisisyourdigitallife, according to whistleblower Christopher Wylie, who first spoke to weekly British newspaper The Observer. Hundreds of thousands of users were paid to take a personality test and agreed to have their data collected for academic use, the Observer said. But the app also collected information on the test-takers' Facebook friends, the paper said.

Facebook barred third-party apps from collecting information on users' friends in 2015. Nonetheless, it's still worth learning which apps have access to your data and curtailing their access, if you so choose.

To do this, log into Facebook and click on the drop-down menu in the top right. Find "Settings" and then click "Apps" to see which have access to your information. If you click on the apps listed there, it will show what kinds of information they have access to, such as status updates or work history. Click "Remove" to halt an app from accessing your data.

On the same page you'll find the "Apps, Websites and Plugins" section. Clicking "Edit" and then "Disable platform" will help keep third-party apps from linking to your Facebook account.

Users also have the option of asking third-party app developers to delete info they've collected on them. It may be difficult to find contact information for these companies, however, and there's no guarantee that they will in fact erase the information.

Reckoning with the app

Using the company's app on your mobile device provides Facebook with additional ways to gather information about users, such as their location. Uninstalling it will help minimize the data Facebook collects.

There are also ways to limit the data gathered by the app. For example, iPhone users can go to "Settings" on their phone, then to "Privacy" and finally to "Location Services" to choose whether they want Facebook to track your movements. For Android phones, click on "Account Settings," then "Location" and look for Facebook there.

If you decide to keep the app, make sure that you set up a passcode so that, if its lost or stolen, someone else won't be able to access sensitive personal information in your Facebook account (or other social media programs).

Erasing your account

If you've decided it's time to get off Facebook once and for all, it's fairly easy to delete your account if you know where to find the right web page. Click this link, then log in to your account and click "Delete My Account."

"Keep in mind that you will not be able to reactivate your account or retrieve any of the content or information you have added," the company warns.

It's possible to download an archive of the personal information related to your account, including the photos that you've uploaded, which users would need to do beforehand. Click on "Settings" in the top right, then on "Download a copy of your Facebook data, then hit "Start My Archive."

Also bear in mind that Facebook may still be able to collect information on you that's posted by, say, friends or family who continue using their accounts even after you've deleted yours.

With files from Reuters and CBC's Matthew Braga