Cambridge Analytica scandal: Don't want to delete Facebook account? Here's what you can do instead

Last week, Facebook found itself at the center of a data breach scandal when a UK-based data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica was accused of illegally harvesting data of 50 million Facebook users.

Social media - including Facebook - is abuzz with posts calling Facebook users to delete their accounts. Even the co-founder of popular messaging service WhatsApp has advised his followers on Twitter to shun the world's biggest social media network.

Interestingly, Brian Acton, the WhatsApp co-founder who has called on Facebook users to delete accounts made a fortune when Mark Zuckerberg's social media platform bought the company for $19 billion. "It is time," Acton wrote, adding the hashtag #deletefacebook.

Last week, Facebook found itself at the center of a data breach scandal when a UK-based data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica was accused of illegally harvesting data of 50 million Facebook users. The compromised data allegedly included sensitive details like users' preferences, friends etc.   

But it's not just Facebook which has access to your personal account details. Mobile apps on your phone where you may have used Facebook sign-in will also have some access to your personal account data. Allowing Facebook access to apps may also make personal information vulnerable.

Facebook data breach has also raised questions regarding the use of big data to influence election outcomes. Incidentally, India leads the countries with highest number of Facebook users. The social networking giant recently  witnessed an increase in the number of people visiting the platform at least once a month to 2.13 billion - way more than the current population of China at 1.41 billion.

Here are some precautions one can take to safeguard their social media account without deleting it:

1. Location Access

The simple way to ensure that your Facebook data is not compromised is to turn off your location access. The vital details about your travels and visits can be used by a third-party app or service which you have been using via Facebook credentials.
With your location data, Facebook has access to your location all the time. If you have installed apps on your phone which use Facebook API, then it is likely that such third-party services are using that data.

You can change the location permissions in the Settings option in your phone. On Facebook, you can open the Account Settings, tap Location in the drop down and then change access from on to off.

2. Remove suspicious apps using Facebook API

Most of us have unwittingly allowed third-party apps the access to our Facebook data. Just like Cambridge Analytica used an ostensibly unknown app called 'thisisyourdigitallife' to harvest data, you may find scores of apps which you may not even have heard of until now taking your personal data.

To check how many such apps are hoarding your data, you can click on the inverted triangle button when you open Facebook on your desktop. Then click on settings. On the left hand side, you will find Apps. Click through to find out which apps have access to your Facebook data. Here, you can remove the apps which you think are questionable.

3. Sharing Settings

Facebook lets you choose who can view your posts on the social networking site. You can choose to limit the audience for the posts you share. The feature also allows you to limit the reach of posts that you have already shared in the past.

Besides managing who can send you friend requests on Facebook, you can also see whether your personal details like email address and mobile numbers are being used to find you on Facebook. This option lets you control whether strangers or people you've shared your phone number with can find you.

In a section called 'How people can find and contact you', Facebook lets you choose whether you want to make your friend list public or not.

4. Avoid sharing personal details

In the 'About Me' section of Facebook, it's probably safer to divulge as little information as you can. If you don't remember which parts of your profile details are public. You can go through Facebook's Privacy Check-up by clicking on the question mark icon on the top right corner.

This feature lets you edit/delete everything you have shared on Facebook. It includes the basic information like the city you live in, your birthday, email address and phone numbers.

5. Ad preferences

If you want to say goodbye to targetted ads on Facebook, then this is where you go. Advertisers have access to the trail of data that you leave behind when you like pages, travel to places or attend events, participate in activities or eat in restaurants. Your Facebook ads are targetted using such information like your relationship status, job title, education, etc.
Luckily, you have an option to disable these preference for ads.