Facebook is stalking you like a crazy ex. It's tracking you, even when you're not on the platform. It probably even has data on you, even if you've never signed up. So how do you stop it?
Well, the bad news is, it's nearly impossible. The entire Facebook business model relies on using data about you to advertise to you in a very precise way. For example, if I wanted to create an advert I can target by your income (even though you haven't told facebook, they've taken an educated guess), by your political persuasion (left/right or conservative/liberal), by the places you have been, or are interested in going to, by the friends you have or people you work with. I can tailor the ad to suit your level of education, whether or not you have kids, what you like doing at the weekends. The list goes on, and on, and on...
If you want to know how they view you, visit this link and explore all the tabs, removing any you're not happy about.
Well, the apocalyptic option is to remove yourself completely. To permanently delete your Facebook account, navigate to the Setting page via the downward facing arrow at the top right side of the site. Click the Your Facebook Information link under Security and Login and navigate to the Delete Your Account and Information link. Once there, you’ll have the option to Deactivate Account, which will allow you to either keep Messenger access, Download Your Information, or Delete Account.
Here's some steps you can take to prevent them from being so invasive. Bear in mind these aren't a silver bullet, they'll almost always find a way.
That's Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp and use the browser instead. The app allows location access, and also uses Bluetooth to track if you're close to others. It also may be listening to your microphone (although they deny this), or using your camera to collect data. You can still use your browser to view it. The only exception is WhatsApp which must be installed on your phone to work. Instagram have a browser version, but it doesn't allow you to upload photos, so you may have a hard time using it without the app.
On your phone, tablet or laptop, check Settings -> Privacy. Look at Location Services and check which apps are allowed to track where you are. Disable any apps you don't want to have access to your location. This doesn't totally stop Facebook knowing where you are, they can work that out from your IP address, bluetooth and photo GPS tags.
They deny listening to you or using your camera, but to be on the safe side you should keep these disabled. Note you will need to enable them again if you want to add to a story, take a picture or upload.
I talked about VPN's in this post and I'll go in to them in more depth in a later post. In this day and age I recommend running a VPN on every device. Without going in to too much techno babble, a VPN (Virtual Private Network) scrambles your data so it can't be read by third parties, it also masks your location. I recommend CloudFlare's free version, but there are some other paid options offering more comprehensive encryption.
Side note to parents - if your kids use a VPN they may be able to bypass parental filters.
Chrome is one of the most popular browsers, but remember it's made by Google, who also are an advertising company. For that reason alone, as well as the fact it's not a great browser, you should probably explore other options. I personally prefer Opera (it has a built in VPN and ad blocker), or if you want extremely private fast browsing, Brave is a great option.
Most browsers have the option to add extensions. Have a search for adblock, uBlock and AdGuard.
You may have heard of 'cookies'. These are little files that most websites deliver to your computer with information about what you do on that particular site. These can be used to track you from site to site.
In most browsers you have the option to ask websites to not track you, so have a look around in your browser settings. It is at the discretion of the websites to obey this request.
Facebook's entire operation depends on their ability to use your data to advertise to you, so they'll always find a way to do that, it's the nature of the beast. None of these options put you completely beyond it, but they'll certainly help.
Let me know if there are any other tips you know that I've missed that you use.