There has been a lot of concern about the latest Facebook privacy scandal with the revelation that Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, harvested data from more than 87 million Facebook users without their knowledge.

Every day the number of users possibly affected increases, as does the nature and scope of the activity by Cambridge Analytica. This organization exposed several weaknesses that allowed them to obtain user data as well as information about their Facebook friends.

Marketing tactics used by vendors are not news. However, the incursion of Facebook data is a wake-up call for social media users.

For Facebook, it may be a modification to devise tighter controls to protect their users. For users, to be more proactive in understanding what they share and with whom they share it.

When you sign up for Facebook, you agree to the company’s privacy policies as a part of creating an account. Many of us accept those terms without paying attention to what they mean.

Society has become laxer about others having access to our information in exchange for convenience and free services. Laxity comes at a price. ​

Understanding Facebook’s Business Model

Facebook is free for all users. So how do they make so much money?

Facebook’s earnings come by way of paid advertisements using targeted statistical data collected from over 2 billion users. What is unique about Facebook is that users voluntarily supply a goldmine of facts about themselves across a variety of statistical data points.

Facebook doesn’t sell its users’ data, which is a common misconception. “What we allow is for advertisers to tell us who they want to reach and then we do the placement,” according to Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.

For marketers, this provides a platform to devise highly targeted sales material to people who are more likely to be interested in their product or service.

Facebook’s business model is not unique. Google operates on the same premise. You get to search for anything and everything for free, figure out where to buy it or order it online, and they learn about your likes and dislikes to sell you things that go with those likes.

Farming consumer data for better marketing is a key strategy that has been profitable for many corporations: credit card companies, grocery stores, brick and mortar retailers, network TV. They have all been tracking our habits or selling purchase histories for years.

Get Proactive with Privacy When You Use Social Media

Facebook’s self-described mission to connect the world and promote a global community has completely changed the way we communicate. It puts news, social campaigns, and other types of information at our fingertips and entertains us.

We can now connect with family, friends, and colleagues not bound by time or distance. My family is spread across the United States, Europe and Asia. Social media allows us to communicate and share moments that are precious and otherwise lost in the distance.

Even with all the controversy about these events, however, deleting Facebook is not an acceptable option for me or my family members.

Most users don’t bother to set their privacy controls. Many, if not most, do not understand how to use the privacy settings or what they mean. We must be proactive if we want to continue to use social media of any kind, to guard our privacy and think about what we share, comment or post.

Take a moment to understand what the “globe” next to a post means vs. the “two profile figures.” Don’t take the personality test, or math test, or color test. Exercise some restraint with the following steps.

Tighten Up Your Privacy Controls Within Facebook

Open your Facebook settings and navigate to “Privacy Checkup” for an easy way to see what you are sharing and update your settings.

Take some time to remove apps you aren’t currently using. When it comes to sharing your profile information, make sure you choose “only me” or “friends.” Also, don’t allow others to see your list of friends.

Review Your Ad Preferences

Review the information Facebook is using to allow advertisers to target you. Under “Settings” click on “Ads,” which brings up your “Ad Preferences.” Here, you will see the data Facebook has about you. Remove interests or information that isn’t relevant or that you don’t want Facebook using to target you.

Be Careful with What You Share

Always remember, any data you share publicly on your Facebook page is accessible to anyone online. So be smart about what you share. Keep private things private.

Connect with Only Trusted Third-Party Apps

If your Facebook account connects to third-party apps like Expedia or Zappos, to log in, you are granting permission for those developers to collect information about your Facebook activity. Delete apps you no longer use.

Review Privacy Settings on All Your Accounts

Be knowledgeable about the social media platforms you are using. Be proactive with your privacy settings.

Be Aware of Fake News

Don’t believe everything you read, especially on social media! Learn how to evaluate a website, a profile of a fellow user – or a so-called news organization. If something you see in your News Feed seems unbelievable, take time to check the facts with reliable and established sources.

How do you feel about social media and Facebook now? I would love to hear your thoughts about staying on Facebook. Would you stay on Facebook so that you can participate in Sixty and Me conversations? Please share your thoughts below.

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