Cambridge Analytica lesson: check your apps settings

By Rev. Marty Levesque

Most people are aware of Cambridge Analytica – the company that breached Facebook’s privacy agreements and weaponized social media as a psychological tool to help Donald Trump win the presidency in 2016.

They did so by collecting data that Facebook users freely shared on the platform. This is done most often through quizzes. Ever wonder if you are High Church or Low Church, which theologian are you, which Disney Princess are you, which Star Trek character are you, or what is your social media word cloud?

The number of quizzes is too many to innumerate here. But to access the quiz result you must agree to give the app access to your profile and personal information that often includes your profile picture, age, sex, birthday, entire friend list, everything you have posted on your timeline, all of your photos, hometown, education history and everything you have ever liked.

Few people probably realize that every time they install one of these apps they continue running in the background unless users actively delete them via their privacy settings. To do so, click on settings and then “apps and games” tab in the right-hand menu and you will see how many apps are installed on your profile and consistently pulling information.

Not all apps and games sell your information to third parties or operate like Cambridge Analytica, but it is very difficult to ascertain which do and which do not. Many companies use this information to build psychological profiles to market and advertise directly to you. And political parties use this information to micro-target you on issues that you have self-indicated are important to you.

By accessing these quizzes you not only share your information, but you are also giving the apps access to your friends’ list in which the quiz will appear as sponsored content in your friends stream. This is in the hopes that since you took the quiz, your friends will also wish to play along with you and compare results.

My advice is to go to your apps and games settings and delete all the apps and games you do not use on a regular basis. Secondly, when it comes to quizzes, while it may kill a few minutes and give you a chuckle, I would simply avoid them. And finally, Facebook still remains a wonderful place to share with friends and family, but it is always best to do a quick audit of your own privacy settings.

These three tips will ensure your enjoyment and connections through social media remain with you, friends and family and are not used in a manner that counter-intuitive to the Missio Dei.

Rev. Marty Levesque is the diocesan social media officer and rector of All Saints’ in Waterloo.
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